Fine Gael TD accuses pro-life activists of spreading falsehoods

Kate O'Connell was speaking during a Newstalk-hosted debate at Electric Picnic

kate o'connell

Fine Gael's Kate O'Connell at Leinster House | Photo: PA Images

Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell has accused pro-life campaigners of peddling false claims about abortion.

Speaking during a Newstalk-hosted debate at Electric Picnic, Ms O’Connell disputed safety risks cited by activist Cora Sherlock.

"It’s important when we talk about abortion that we always tell the truth," she said.

"It is not a fact that an abortion is any more harmful to a woman's life than a normal miscarriage.

"That is scientific, it’s proven. The safety issues arise when abortions are carried out in substandard conditions."

The Dublin Bay South TD also insisted that a referendum on repealing the eighth amendment should not be rushed.

"There’s a whole cohort of people that needs the time to tease out these issues, and needs to hear the truth," she said.

"When somebody like Cora comes onto various radio shows and says things that are just not true, people like myself have to be given the opportunity to tell the truth."

Ms Sherlock, the deputy chair of the Pro-Life Campaign, had earlier told audience members that greater attention should be paid to the dangers faced by women undergoing terminations.

Speaking from the Newstalk Lounge in Stradbally, she referred to the case of an Irish woman who died hours after an abortion at a Marie Stopes clinic in London in 2012.

"People say 'you don’t trust women'. I trust women, 100%. What I don’t trust is abortion.

"We need a bigger focus on the very serious safety concerns, not just for the unborn but also for the woman."

Ms Sherlock described Ms O’Connell’s subsequent criticism as "really flippant", saying: "I take offence that you accuse me of telling falsehoods when you sit there and completely ignore the harm and damage.

"When I do a debate like this and Kate comes out with a comment like that, I think of women like the woman I spoke to last week, who talked to me about the regret, grief and sadness that abortion brought her.

"She was lucky because she survived her abortion."

Ms Sherlock reiterated her position that no referendum should be held on abortion rights, saying it came down to "a vision of the type of Ireland want want to live in".

"The pro-choice movement want a society where only some people are protected, and some human lives can be ended on the decision of other people," she said.

Labour senator Ivana Bacik also criticised Ms Sherlock's comments, saying abortion "carries no more risks" that other similar medical procedures. 

"It's extremely dangerous when we hear scaremongering tactics of the anti-choice side who know public opinion has turned against them," she said. 

"What we need is a debate that is fact-based and evidence-based."

Wendy Grace of Spirit Radio cited UK figures showing a rise in the number of abortions of babies with cleft palates.

"What’s positive about the eighth amendment is that for so many people it gave them time to think about what they wanted to do ... before their appointment," she said. 

"They look at their child today and think about what could have been."  

Listen to the full debate here: