It has emerged that abortion legislation could be met with a sunset clause, potentially extending the waiting time for a referendum. Jenny Holmes of The Daily Shift tells us what this could mean…
Any effort to include a sunset clause in the forthcoming abortion legislation is ‘a pathetic attempt by some Fine Gael backbenchers to pander to their perceived electorate’ according to Dublin North TD Clare Daly.
A sunset clause is a measure within a law which allows for legislation to lapse after a specific period of time. It emerged on Sunday that Cork North West TD Michael Creed asked Taoiseach Enda Kenny to include such a clause in the abortion bill being prepared by government to give statutory support to the Supreme Court decision in the X-case in 1992.
Creed, in a letter to the Taoiseach, expressed his concern that the implementation of the forthcoming legislation would open the ‘floodgates’ on abortion whereby the ‘liberalisation on the availability of abortion would be inevitable’.
Such an initiative is seen by some as a way to keep party dissenters in line who are uncomfortable with the inclusion of ‘suicide threat’ in the legislation. An initial draft of the bill which required the opinion of five medical professionals before an abortion would be granted on the grounds of suicide was rejected by the Labour Party.
Daly, a long-time advocate of the pro-choice movement, rejected Creed’s claims that legislation would relax access to abortion in Ireland.
“The legislation will not do that. It is, and will be, very restrictive in its nature by dealing with the limited circumstances where a women’s life is in danger and clearly there are moves behind the scenes to make that even more difficult to access”.
However Fine Gael TD for Cork South West Jim Daly said he was in favour of a sunset clause “to avoid the law of unintended consequences”. He told RTÉ that people had a “genuinely held fear” and such a mechanism would help reduce levels of anxiety surrounding the issue.
Labour Senator Ivana Bacik said those arguing for a sunset clause were talking ‘nonsense’ by suggesting legislation could result in a huge increase in abortions.
“I think to suggest that this legislation will open the floodgates somehow is to assume that women are lying, that they are deceitful, that they can’t be trusted and indeed that the psychiatric and medical professions are not to be trusted either and I think that’s nonsense”.
The legislation is the Protection of Maternal Life Bill, which will legalise abortion in some cases, including after medical assessment or in the risk of suicide. It is included in the programme of legislation the Government intends to publish before the summer break.