Irish abortion bill: Lawmaker sorry for forcing woman onto his lap during debate

Irish lawmakers resumed discussion on controversial new abortion legislation after failing to go to a final vote.

Zee Media Bureau

Dublin: Irish lawmakers on Thursday resumed discussion on controversial new abortion legislation after failing to go to a final vote despite debating into the early hours.

The debate over Ireland’s abortion law reforms took an ugly turn on Wednesday night when a member of the Irish Parliament grabbed a woman colleague and forced her to sit on his lap.

Member of Parliament Tom Barry later apologised for the incident, which was televised live.

According to CNN, a video is now circulating online showing Barry giving a bear hug from behind to fellow member Aine Collins after she`s forced onto his lap.

"What I did last night was disrespectful and inappropriate. I have apologised to Aine Collins and she graciously and immediately accepted my apology," Barry said in a written statement. "No excuses, I just shouldn`t have done it."

Barry`s political party, Fine Gael, condemned his behaviour but said that Collins accepted his apology.

The debate over Ireland’s abortion law reforms is two decades old but what reignited the issue was the death of an Indian dentist Savita Halappanavar, who succumbed to pregnancy complications last October as she was denied abortion despite her life being in risk.

Death of the 31-year old Savita Halappanavar, hailing from India’s Karnataka, triggered massive protest in India, Ireland and England and hence paved the way for abortion law reforms in Ireland.

Ireland`s Parliament was forced to adjourn the debate on a bill that would legalise abortion for the first time in the predominantly Catholic country after an all-night debate on the issue moved into a second day on Thursday.

The government-drafted Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill has strongly divided the Catholic country.

An inquest into 31-year-old Savita`s death earlier this year was told that a timely abortion may have saved her life.

After a marathon sitting of the Dail Parliament yesterday that ended at dawn, over 100 of the 165 amendments to the bill were yet to be debated and a vote on the landmark laws to clarify a woman`s right to a termination if her life is at risk is unlikely to go through even today.

The laws will be supported by the vast majority of the country`s politicians, but they are likely to see the fall of a junior minister who has shown signs of joining a small backbench revolt.

Despite Minister for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton`s widely anticipated rebellion, the laws are likely to pass with a majority.

Prime Minister Enda Kenny has stood firm on his hard line, insisting members of his Fine Gael party are well aware of the consequences of breaking ranks.

Hate mail and death threats to politicians, and intimidation of campaigners have raged throughout the divisive abortion debate.

Outside Parliament, hundreds of anti-abortion protesters, who had spent the night reciting prayers with rosary beads, vowed to spend a second night kneeling on the spot in hopes of inspiring lawmakers to rebel against Kenny.

"Keep abortion illegal, babies can LIVE without it," their placards read.

While Ireland officially outlaws abortion in all circumstances, its laws on the matter have been muddled since 1992, when the Supreme Court ruled that abortion should be legal in cases where doctors deem a woman`s life at risk from continued pregnancy, including, most controversially, from her own threats to commit suicide if denied one.

Six previous governments refused to back the judgement, citing the suicide grounds as open to abuse by abortion-seekers.

But Ireland faced renewed pressure to pass legislation on medical-emergency abortions after the European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2011 that Ireland`s inaction meant that pregnant women in medical crises faced potentially dangerous delays in receiving terminations in neighbouring England, where abortion was legalised in 1967.

Meanwhile, the Irish High Court has refused to grant an injunction aimed at stopping provisions of the abortion bill being voted into law.

(With PTI inputs)

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