FG minister: More empathy needed for women with fatal foetal abnormalities

Paschal Donohoe insists citizens' assembly is best vehicle to deal with eighth amendment

FG minister: More empathy needed for women with fatal foetal abnormalities

Minister Paschal Donohoe in Dublin | Image: RollingNews.ie

Woman with fatal foetal abnormalities who travel abroad for abortions should be treated more emphatically than they have in the past, a Fine Gael minister has said.

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe said he thought it unacceptable that families dealing with such “trauma” should have to return home after terminations “with a loved one in the boot of a car”.

However, decisions about legislation will be best handled by the soon-to-be-established citizens’ convention, Mr Donohoe told Newstalk’s Breakfast programme.

He was speaking after reports indicated that several Independent Alliance ministers are looking for a free vote on proposed legislation to allow for abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities.

The bill, proposed by TD Mick Wallace, is due before the Dáil next week.

The Irish Times said that ministers John Halligan, Shane Ross and Finian McGrath are among the government deputies seeking to support the private members’ motion.

Newstalk.com was not immediately able to reach the TDs in question.

Mr Donohoe told Breakfast the matter will be discussed by cabinet next week once the attorney general has advised the government on the bill's legality.

However, he added that he strongly believed the citizens’ assembly was best placed to deal with the issue of fatal fatal abnormalities.

"We have prioritised the eighth amendment as the first item to be dealt with by the assembly," he said.

“All cabinet members sitting around the table agreed with that proposal.”

On the same programme, Social Democrats TD Róisín Shortall criticised the current whip system observed by some parties.

"People should have more freedom in terms of how they vote. I would prefer to see a loosening of whips," she said. 

"Every vote here has generally been a three-line whip, and you are punished and pushed out of your party if you vote against it. That should not happen in modern politics."

Fianna Fáil TDs have been given a free vote on the legislation being proposed by Mr Wallace, while other opposition parties are expected to back the bill.