LIVE: Two pro-life experts cancel appearances; Oireachtas Committee described as ’kangaroo court’

The cross-party Oireachtas abortion committee is facing fresh claims of bias after two pro-life experts due to attend the group cancelled their meetings because they believe any discussion will turn into a "kangaroo court", writes Irish Examiner Political Correspondent, Fiachra Ó Cionnaith.

Dr Marty McCaffrey, professor of paediatrics at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, and the Both Lives Matter group made the comments just hours after the Government agreed to pay a woman who had to travel to Britain for an abortion after a fatal foetal abnormality diagnosis €30,000 in compensation.

Watch live coverage of the committee below:

In a letter seen by the Irish Examiner and sent before committee chair and Fine Gael senator Catherine Noone will repeat her call for more pro-life witnesses to balance the group’s deliberations, Prof McCaffrey said he will no longer attend.

The US expert - who was recommended by Fine Gael senator and non-committee member Michelle Mulherin last month - said that having recently reviewed the group’s work he believes any appearance would amount to a "kangaroo court".

"On October 26 I received an invitation. On reviewing the testimony before the committee to date, I was concerned to see that the proceedings were deeply biased in favour of repeal.

"Over the past weekend, I discovered that the Oireachtas committee, ahead of hearing evidence I would present, had already voted [not to retain the amendment in full].

"I will not partake in a charade which has already reached its preordained conclusion. It is difficult not to conclude this is a ’kangaroo court’," he told the Irish Examiner.

In a five-page letter to the committee this morning, Prof McCaffrey said he has "watched with interest and not a little concern" the committee’s work to date and said it is "horrific" pregnancies involving fatal foetal abnormalities do not go to full-term because of what he described as "a self-fulfilling prophecy".

He said while the vast majority of witnesses to date have been pro-choice, and that babies with anencephaly - a fatal condition

where a child is missing part of their brain or head - have shortened lives, they "are born alive".

In a separate letter to the committee this morning, the Both Lives Matter group - which was also due to attend the committee later this month - said it has been made aware of "concerns" the committee is "weighted towards a reform of the existing law".

Noting the committee’s October 19 vote not to retain the existing eighth amendment in full, a spokesperson for the group wrote this morning:

"After initially declining to hear from us - along with other pro-life campaign groups who weren’t considered expert witnesses - we suspect the public criticism directed towards the committee has led to you now inviting us to attend.

"After much consideration we have now decided that we will not attend in person as, like Prof Patricia Casey [a pro-life psychiatrist who declined to attend last month] we have no desire to add further credence to this deeply flawed process".

The comments came as the Government last night agreed to pay a woman €30,000 in compensation after she had to travel to Britain for an abortion after a fatal foetal abnormality diagnosis.

The payment to Wexford woman Siobhan Whelan was agreed after a United Nations committee said her human rights were violated and recommended she be compensated for psychological damage.

It is the second time the State has compensated a woman for having to travel abroad for a pregnancy.

Committee chair and Fine Gael senator Catherine Noone will today repeat her call for pro-life groups and experts to attend the committee and give evidence due to the mounting bias claims.

These claims are disputed by pro-choice and middle-ground committee members who believe they are an attempt to undermine the committee.

Ms Noone is also expected to say that, if needed, she would be in favour of holding a teleconference call or calls with pro-life experts in Australia and other countries who were previously rejected because of travel cost concerns.


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