Ireland: Abortion vote delayed after all-night debate

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny last night acceded to lawmakers' demands for an extended round-the-clock debate of a bill that would allow abortions in Ireland for the first time.

His concession meant that the vote, long scheduled for Wednesday night, was pushed into the early hours of Thursday as lawmakers hotly debated 165 potential amendments. The government rejected all of them.

One of the most controversial features of the bill is a proposal to allow abortions for pregnant women who exhibit suicidal tendencies.

Bernadette Goulding, director of Rachel’s Vineyard in Ireland, a non-profit organization which offers support to women who have had abortions, said abortion would harm women, rather than help them.

A post-abortive mother herself, she told Vatican Radio that abortion is not treatment for pregnant women with suicidal tendencies. “I can see it in my work with women,” she said. “Many women have come to me through Rachel’s Vineyard who have been raped and had abortions, and these women are totally distraught. And these women are grieving for their lost children, and really regretting their decision to abort.”

Goulding went on to say, “Suicide is not a reason to legalize abortion,” adding that what a woman in a crisis pregnancy needs is “information, she needs help, she needs love, she needs support.”

Rachel’s Vineyard is a non-profit organization founded in the US which aims to offer healing to post-abortive mothers through weekend retreats and other means of support.

 Independent deputy Richard Boyd Barrett, who supports the bill, said: "It is a fudge and a sham, where the lives of women have become secondary to the need of this government to protect itself."

Kenny told parliament he had been sent plastic foetuses and letters written in blood and his private house has been picketed by protesters wearing skeleton masks.

The two-decade debate over how Ireland should deal with a Supreme Court ruling that abortion be permitted when a woman's life is in danger was reopened last year after a woman who was having a miscarriage died last year. Medical experts told a court she would have survived if she had been given an abortion, but the hospital refused to give one.

The ruling was the result of a challenge, by a 14-year-old rape victim in the so-called "X-case" of 1992, to a constitutional amendment nine years earlier that intended to ban abortion in all instances.

Debate on the bill continued until 5am when it was adjourned until later today (Thursday). A vote is possible late this evening.

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