Irish Times Breaking News 5.13pm Thursday May 10th 2007.
Abortion issue will not be 'revisited'
Minister for Health Mary Harney has said she does not believe the issue of legislating on the subject of abortion will be revisited for a long time to come.
Reacting to the High Court judgment yesterday in the 'Miss D' case, Ms Harney said a referendum held on the issue in 2002 had been "fair and balanced and reasonable" and was defeated by the people.
The 17-year-old woman in the 'Miss D' case had sought the right to travel to Britain for an abortion. She is carrying a foetus that has a brain-stem abnormality called anencephaly, which means her baby would not live for more than a number of days after birth.
Asked today whether she believed whichever party or parties were in government after the election would now have to legislate on the abortion question, Ms Harney said: "We had a referendum a few years ago which I think was fair and balanced and reasonable and it was defeated by the people.
"And in this debate, it tends to be dominated by extremes on both sides. I do not believe for the foreseeable future we will have legislation in this area, for one simple reason. I don't see how any government could seek to legislate for when somebody might, or might not, be suicidal."
Ms Harney said she was not aware that any of the parties in the general election were making the question of legislation on abortion an issue in their manifestos.
The Minister said she believed it would be "impossible" to bring in legislation to take account of [the X-case] situation where a woman was suicidal.
"I have heard no lawyer, no political party that has told me and nobody has every told me how they could [formulate] legislation for those circumstances.
"I think it would be impossible, quite honestly. I think...this debate is dominated by extremes on both sides. We are quite a bit away from having legislation in this area in Ireland - that's my honest view. I don't know of anyone that's committing themselves to doing it."
Ms Harney said there were restrictions on what could be done because of the Constitution.
"And when we sought to change the Constitution and put in place a [reasonable] approach, it was defeated. It was a very heated debate. When that was defeated, I remember saying at the time that we are a decade away from revisiting this matter again.
"I believe that to be the case...I believe it will be quite some time before any government will revisit that issue again."
In the short term, the Minister said, the Department of Health is preparing legislation with regard to IVF treatment and that, in itself, would be a major and "sensitive" piece of legislation.