Wednesday 23 October 2019

Walsh receives abuse for Seanad abortion speech

David Looby

SENATOR JIM WALSH has received hostile and abusive text messages calling him 'a f***ing pig' and 'a Catholic pervert' following his graphic description of an abortion procedure in the Seanad last week.

Senator Walsh said he does not regret making his comments, which included a very detailed account of a late-term abortion, saying he was standing up for women who regret having had abortions, as well as the unborn.

Senator Walsh was one of two Fianna Fáil members who were admonished by the party's Seanad leader last week for their comments. Darragh O'Brien said comments by some of his colleagues were deeply upsetting, too graphic and lacked compassion.

Senator Walsh responded by saying that no one had a monopoly on conscience or morality, while Senator Ó Domhnaill said those opposing the legislation were castigated every time they opened their mouths.

During the debate a clearly upset Labour Senator Marie Moloney described losing a baby. She also criticised some senators over the tone of the debate.

The New Ross man quoted comments made by a doctor who had performed over 1,200 abortions in America, only to go on to lobby the US Congress against allowing abortions.

Senator Walsh criticised the sanitised language that was being used in the abortion debate in the Dáil and in the Seanad.

During his speech he talked about how a late-term abortion could involve the baby's legs being taken out, and how vital organs are torn from the foetus. Having given the description, Senator Walsh said: 'Congratulations, you have the right to choose; that is abortion. That is what you and I are being asked to vote for.'

And Senator Ó Domhnaill also read out descriptions of an aborted foetus being taken apart in the womb and brought out bit by bit. But Fianna Fáil party leader Micheál Martin said there was a need to show respect and to avoid the use of emotive and provocative language.

'It is a source of regret that some contributions, including from within my own party, have fallen short of that standard,' he said.

Senator Walsh appeared on Pat Kenny's radio show the following day where he was confronted by Senator Ivana Bacik, who said there was an agreement that speakers would use respectful language during the debate. She said his comments 'weren't helpful' to the 150,000 women have travelled to the UK for abortions in the past 30 years and didn't further any rational debate on the issue.

Senator Walsh denied that this was the case.

He said: 'People have been talking about it [abortion] as if it's a very humane mechanism for the baby. There is no procedure I know that doesn't sunder the baby's life. If people are disgusted by the description they must be disgusted by asking medical professionals to perform these procedures,' he said.

Speaking to this newspaper yesterday (Monday), Senator Walsh said 90 per cent of people who contacted the Pat Kenny Show supported his actions; adding that the majority of messages he has received since have also been in support.

Senator Walsh said the pro-choice senators wanted the bill passed without the public realising 'the gory details' and 'barbaric acts' involved in abortions.

He said every effort should be made to save the life of the woman when serious medical issues arise.

'We weren't inhibited in any way by the current constitutional position,' before going on to say that some 'hard cases' will arise in terms of expectant mothers suffering from mental health issues, but said they can be treated thanks to advances in social services.

'There is no evidence that abortions help women with suicidal intent or suffering from mental health issues; that comes from all the professionals. A lot of abortions arise from coercion. I know there are hard cases and my heart would go out to these people but in the 21st century, with the advances we've made within our social services, surely we're more caring and compassionate than in the Middle Ages. Is the best we can offer these women to kill their unborn babies?'

Senator Walsh said he was speaking on behalf of women who contacted him who have regretted having an abortion.

He said he has received hundreds of emails, texts and calls to his office and to his personal phone following his comments.

'I got some abuse obviously. One woman who had an abortion 40 years ago called me a "Catholic pervert", and somebody else called me "a f***ing pig" in a text message,' he said.

On upsetting Senator Moloney, he said he spoke to her after the debate. 'I said it wasn't my intention to cause upset to any woman,' he said, adding that he had informed the house that he and his wife had lost a child through a miscarriage.

Senator Walsh said he helped to establish the Human Dignity Group in the Seanad two years ago to inform people about abortion and then issues involved in legislating for it in any way, but firmly believed there was no need to change the law in Ireland in relation to abortion.

Wexford People

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