Minister Mary Harney has said that she does not believe that abortion would become an election issue as a result of the High Court challenge to a HSE refusal to allow a teenager to travel abroad for an abortion. 'We had a referendum a number of years ago in relation to abortion, where we put forward a very balanced approach, and that was rejected by the people' Ms Harney said. 'Therefore I am not certain that people are ready to determine in relation to these issues again.'
Ms Harney said she hoped that the case would be dealt with 'in a compassionate and sensitive way'. Clearly, because it was before the courts, it would be inappropriate for her to comment further. She added: 'I hope that there can be a decision very quickly. It does seem to be a tragic case.'
Minister for Justice Michael McDowell said he believed that there was a humane solution to the case. 'I am a party leader, but I'm also Minister for Justice, and I don't want to be seen to be guiding the courts in one way or another, but I also believe that in this particular case there is a humane and sensible way out of all of this.' Asked on RTE's Morning Ireland if the courts would find it easier to deal with such a case if the Oireachtas had passed legislation, he said: 'Legislation would have to come down on one side or another, and I don't know whether in this particular case the courts would find it easier to deal with, because we are dealing here with a balance of constitutional rights.'
Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said it was a 'complex, human, tragic case' which might end up in the Supreme Court, so he did not want to comment further. Labour Party leader Pat Rabitte said that the case was 'highly complex' and required clarification in the courts before any decision could be made on what laws, if any, might be needed.
Dr Berry Kiely, of the Pro-Life Campaign, said the view that abortion was the 'compassionate solution' in this case was mistaken. 'The minor at the centre of the case is entitled to be made fully aware of the possible consequences of going through with an abortion' she said. Youth Defence spokesman Eoghan De Faoite said he found it 'quite appallling that a child's life would be ended in such a violent way simply because that child might not live long after he or she is born'.