An Irish lawmaker was punished Thursday for voting to protect unborn babies from abortion.
Meath West TD Peadar Tóibín voted against his party last week on a motion to move a pro-abortion bill forward for debate. His party, Sinn Féin, required its members to vote pro-abortion instead of their conscience on the legislation.
For supporting the unborn rather than his party, Tóibín has been suspended for six months, The Irish Times reports.
Sinn Féin Whip in the Dáil Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD criticized Tóibín on Thursday when he announced the suspension and called his vote “a serious breach of the party’s rules,” Joe Ireland reports.
Tóibín responded that his suspension actually could mean expulsion because it may prevent him from running for re-election.
“It is my understanding that while on suspension I would be prevented from standing for Sinn Féin as a candidate and would not be allowed to re-enter the party subsequently if I seek re-election during the suspension,” he said in a statement.
He also defended his vote against the pro-abortion bill. Government leaders are pushing a pro-abortion bill that would legalize abortion for any reason up to 12 weeks of pregnancy and up to six months in a wide variety of circumstances. It would force taxpayers to pay for abortions and force Catholic hospitals to provide them. The bill also strictly limits conscience protections for medical professionals.
Tóibín said the legislation is much more extreme than what voters wanted when they chose to repeal the pro-life Eighth Amendment in May.
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“It is also important to note that the 34 per cent of the population that voted to retain the Eighth Amendment plus the 20 per cent of Yes voters who don’t agree with this bill should have a voice in the Oireachtas,” he said. “It is reasonable that TDs should give voice to the opposing views on Simon Harris’s abortion bill in roughly the proportion that exists in society. There is no better way to push voters to the extreme than to deny them a legitimate democratic voice.”
Tóibín knew he risked suspension when he chose to vote against the pro-abortion bill.
“I accept that there will no doubt be a period of suspension facing me over my stance on abortion and there may possibly be implications from that suspension which could impact on my eligibility to stand under the Sinn Féin flag in the next general election,” Tóibín told LMFM’s Michael Reade Show in June.
Tóibín said he has watched his party shift rapidly on the abortion issue.
“Over the past three years, the party has changed its position significantly and it is one I have a radical difference of opinion on but it is only issue and I hope to remain with the party,” he said.
Another Sinn Féin TD, Carol Nolan, left the party this summer after she was suspended for voting to protect unborn babies’ rights.
“I feel that as a pro-life republican woman that I no longer have a place in this party, which doesn’t recognise or show genuine respect for the pro-life views of members,” Nolan said, The Independent reported. “I cannot and will not support abortion and for that reason I have made a decision to leave Sinn Féin.”
The party suspended Nolan for three months after she voted against Ireland’s abortion referendum.