LIMERICK councillors have voted overwhelmingly against a motion calling on the government to hold a referendum to repeal the eighth amendment.
Altogether 23 local representatives voted against the motion, which was tabled by Cllr Cian Prendiville of the Anti Austerity Alliance, with 12 councillors voting in favour; five councillors were absent for the vote.
Proposing the motion, Cllr Prendiville spoke of the recent Ms Y case, a young female asylum seeker who had been raped and was denied an abortion because she was not deemed to be “actively suicidal”.
“This is the reality of the eighth amendment: a blanket ban on abortion, regardless of if the woman was raped, a minor, if the pregnancy would severely damage her health, or even if the foetus would never be compatible with life,” he added.
Warning that a ban on abortion does not stop abortions, but merely forces women to travel or to seek “back street abortions”, Cllr Prendiville held aloft a box of pills and said: “There is a safer way for those women needing an abortion in Ireland, and cheaper than travelling to the UK. These abortion pills are on the WHO list of essential medicines, and are available online through WomenOnWeb.org.”
Shane Clifford, the only member of Fianna Fáil to vote in favour of the motion, said he believed the country needed “a responsible debate” on abortion and said he was in favour “of giving people a real choice”.
“In effect abortion is available to Irish citizens, it just happens to be outsourced, like so many other services,” he added, pointing out that “it’s cheaper to buy 12 cans of beer than 12 condoms”.
Opposing the motion, his party colleague Cllr Eddie Ryan said: “There used to be a saying that children should be seen and not heard, never that they shouldn’t be seen and not heard and not even born. What choice has an unborn child got not to come into this world?”
Cllr John Sheahan announced that “in the absence of any alternative” the Fine Gael council group would not be supporting the motion.
Speaking in support of the motion, Cllr Ciara McMahon (SF) said it was a difficult motion for her “as a 28-year-old woman and the child of a single parent family”.
Also supporting the motion, independent councillor John Gilligan stated: “If women had the choice, they would probably choose a decent education, a decent job, a decent house and a steady relationship. Nobody chooses abortion. It is something that is forced on people, and anyone who has done it does so with a heavy heart.
“Every year, 4,000 people leave our shores for an abortion, but people here are still happy to think that there’s no abortion in Ireland. Whether you like it or not it’s still happening.”
Cllr Emmett O’Brien (Ind) opposed the motion, saying that although the eighth amendment has flaws, it offers “the best protection” for both mother and unborn child.
Commenting on the vote afterwards, Cllr Prendiville said it was “disappointing but expected”.
He added: “Over 80 per cent of the population want abortion legislated for in cases that require a repeal of the eighth amendment, yet two thirds of the councillors don’t think people should even be allowed to vote on this.”