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Government hypocrisy over abortion poll

By January 3, 2002News

– Release date: 03 January 2002

The Irish Family Planning Association has accused the Government of hypocrisy over its continuing failure to announce definitive plans for an abortion referendum in the spring.

According to the IFPA's Chief Executive, Tony O'Brien, "despite the rushed launch of the Abortion Bill, the imposition of a guillotine during the Dail debate and the 'quickie' approach to the Committee Stage, on the last working day for the Government of 2001 we are still in the dark about the plans to hold a referendum.

"This charade by Fianna Fail and the Progressive Democrats is made all the worse by the continuing calls by both Bertie Ahern and Mary Harney for a mature, non-confrontational debate on the issue. If they were serious about such a debate on the issues at stake, they would, at least, tell us if a referendum was happening for sure.

The IFPA has always questioned the motivation of the Government in pursuing an anti-abortion referendum. "To date there appears to be little public appetite for this regressive referendum and the only groups who have given public support for the proposals are the Bishops and the Pro Life Campaign, both of whom met the Taoiseach in advance of its announcement.

Such consultation was not afforded to groups such as the IFPA, who deal with the consequences of the Irish ban on abortion on a daily basis, through our non-directive pregnancy counselling and post-abortion care.

"This selective consultation has given us a very clear impression that the Taoiseach, at least, colluded with some anti-abortion groups in formulating his abortion bill.

Before any further politcking takes place, its is important that both of the coalition partners come clean on its plans for a referendum. The Tanaiste knows that consensus on these proposals will not be achieved, and the longer the public is given mixed signals over the referendum, the prospect of a decent public debate, let alone consensus, diminishes.

"In the meantime, those women who will experience crisis pregnancy as a result of their sexual activity over Christmas period can be assured that Fianna Fail, the Progressive Democrats, the Bishops and self-styled 'pro-life' movement, who have apparently now joined forces, will support their right to travel to the UK for an abortion. However, should they attempt a self-induced abortion in Ireland because they cannot afford to travel, they could be liable to 12 years in prison if the proposals are passed.

IFPA SECURES MEETING WITH PROGRESSIVE DEMOCRATS
"Hypocrisy is the theme of both the abortion proposals and the approach to the proposed referendum," added Mr O'Brien.

The Irish Family Planning Association revealed today that it has now secured a response from the Progressive Democrats to its request for a meeting. "The IFPA requested meetings, and subsequently met with, all the main political parties following the publication of the abortion proposals in October.

"Up until a week ago, we had received no response from the Progressive Democrats, despite reminding the Tanaiste's office of our original correspondence requesting a meeting in October.

"While we will not be meeting the Tanaiste, we welcome the fact that we have, at last, secured a response and will now meeting with PD representatives in early January," aid Tony O'Brien.