Independent TD Clare Daly has described the fact that the Irish constitution legislates what a woman does with her body as “scandalous”.
Speaking in DCU last Wednesday, Daly outlined why she supports legislation to introduce abortion in Ireland. In a similar talk on Thursday night, Independent Senator Ronan Mullen was due to speak on why he is against abortion. However he had to pull out for undisclosed personal reasons and his Parliamentary Assistant, Tom Finnegan spoke instead.
Daly began her talk by bluntly stating “Irish abortion exists, that’s a fact…it just doesn’t happen in Ireland”. Finnegan began his by stating “Myself, I am a Catholic” but made clear he would not bring religion into it and argued his case as if in a court of law or House of Parliament. He also made it clear he was speaking for himself not Senator Mullen.
Daly said that woman had a right to make her own decisions when it came to abortion and said she believes legislation should support this right. Daly feels some politicians who block such legislation do so out of fear of losing a few votes: “I think that’s disgusting, it’s disappointing”.
Finnegan spoke in favour of the life of the child and said abortion is the “targeting of a child’s life”. He described the Netherlands and the UK as effectively having “abortion on demand”.
However during her talk, Daly rejected that legislating for abortion would ‘open the floodgates’ and increase the number of women having abortions.
Finnegan argued against abortion in cases of cancer and said any treatment during the illness was shown to have no effect on the child in most cases.
He made exception in the case of ectopic pregnancy where the fetus is implanted outside the womb (uterus). The fetus cannot survive but the condition is life threatening to the mother. In this case he said it is “perfectly fine and justified to give all medical treatment” as the child is not intentionally killed.
Daly argued the issue isn’t just about abortion, but the right to choose to have children, to raise them with dignity and have the economic means to raise them. Daly feels the issue of abortion rights is more important now in the recession as many women struggle to find the money to travel adding to the stress of an unwanted pregnancy. She said women are forced to “leave your own country, like a criminal”. Both speakers gave their view on abortion for mental health reasons. Finnegan said one of the issues on abortion for mental health reasons is it is hard to regulate where it begins and ends. He also cited two studies which showed abortion does affect the mental health of the woman concerned: “no study has said it’s [abortion] good for women’s mental health”.
Daly referenced a different study, which found women with mental health issues following an abortion usually had underlying mental health problems before the unwanted pregnancy. The study said the stress of an unwanted pregnancy and having to travel would have an impact on women’s mental health rather than the abortion itself.
Daly proposed a Private Members Bill to the Dáil in April this year proposing to legislate on the X-case with TDs Mick Wallace and Joan Collins, however the bill was rejected. When asked if she thinks the current government will legislate for abortion she said she believed Minister for Health, Dr James Reilly will keep his promise but added “I might have to my eat words on it”.
Daly is a former DCU student from when the university was an Institute of Education (NIHE). She was president of the Students’ Union twice during her time here. During her time in the SU, Daly was heavily involved in the abortion debate.
The talks were arranged by the DCU Secular and Sceptic society. It was the society’s first event since their establishment this year.