ula proposed amendments to Sinn Féin motion on X-case

The following motion from Sinn Féin was debated in the Dáil yesterday:

That Dáil Éireann:
extends its deepest sympathy to the family of Savita Halappanavar and recognises that news of her death in such tragic and traumatic circumstances has caused distress to people throughout the country and beyond;
resolves to await the outcome of the ongoing inquiries into all aspects of this tragedy;
acknowledges that the Oireachtas must legislate to give effect to the 1992 judgment of the Supreme Court (the X case);
further acknowledges that the absence of the required legislation denies women protection and the right to obtain a termination in life threatening circumstances and it also creates an ambiguous legal situation for clinicians in those same circumstances;
regrets that successive Governments and Ministers for Health have failed to legislate in this regard; and
calls on the Government to:
immediately publish the report of the expert group; and
immediately introduce legislation to give effect to the 1992 judgment of the Supreme Court in the X case, to protect pregnant women where their lives are in real danger and to give legal certainty to medical professionals.

In response to this there were two proposed ULA amendments:

Clare Daly proposed the following amendment as an additional final point:

Recognising that there must be an end to the distinction between the life and the health of a woman as grounds for legal abortion in Ireland, the Dáil calls on the government to introduce a Bill for a Constitutional referendum for the repeal of the 8th Amendment to the Constitution and the consequent deletion of Art. 40.3.3 in order to facilitate the introduction of appropriate legislation.

Joe Higgins proposed the following addition:

Furthermore Dail Eireann:

-Calls on the Minister for Health to instruct the Health Service Executive to issue a directive to all hospitals ensuring that a timely termination of pregnancy takes place when the life of a woman is threatened by its continuation and when the woman requests such treatment;

– Notes that the 1992 Supreme Court judgement in the X case, seeks to protect the life and not necessarily the health of the woman leaving healthcare workers in a position where they are compelled to tolerate a threshold of illness, suffering and deteriorating health in a pregnant woman, including to the point that her life is endangered;

-Calls for the drafting of legislation providing – where this is requested by a woman – for termination of a pregnancy which threatens her mental or physical health and in cases of conception by rape or incest and for an informed national debate on the constitutional change that would be needed to allow such legislation to be enacted;

-Accepts that in the final analysis the choice to terminate a pregnancy is that of the woman and that this choice continues to be exercised daily by women in Ireland and that by not legislating for free, safe and legal abortion rights in Ireland this government is simply imposing financial and geographical obstacles in front of women exercising their choice.


Of course as it turns out neither amendment was discussed as the government’s own “amendment” to gut the Sinn Féin motion of its real content was taken first and made the two ULA amendments academic in terms of the Dáil.

However they still have obviously have value as propaganda pieces and that raises an immediate question about why there were two amendments coming from the ULA in response to the Sinn Féin motion? While they are at least not contradictory, it is hard not to see this as just more evidence that the project is unravelling as even an electoral/parliamentary bloc, let alone any kind of project for a new workers’ party.

And then of course there is the content. Clare’s proposed amendment has the advantage of making concrete the need for a change in the constitution while Joe’s has the advantage of explicitly outlining the need for free, safe and legal abortion rights. Both are weak in that neither calls for overturning the 1861 legislation and they both see this as still a legal issue where I would argue that decriminalisation is the way to go. For instance we don’t have laws about when people are allowed to have heart surgery or other medical procedures and abortion should be treated the same way – with a decision taken by the women in consultation with her medical clinician.



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