“Talk of the legislation being ‘life-saving’ is simply dishonest. There is no evidence that abortion ever helps women’s mental health and in fact it may damage women. It’s astounding that the Fine Gael leadership has caved in to Labour, allowing ideology to win out over evidence.
“The two-panel six-doctor proposal for signing off on abortions is utter nonsense. All it takes is three pro-choice doctors to sign off on every request and all restrictiveness is gone. It is an insult to women and their unborn babies to pretend that it could operate in an evidence-based manner.”
Meanwhile, Government backbenchers have also voiced their concerns that the abortion draft legislation may be unconstitutional and unworkable.
Speaking on Newstalk, Fine Gael TD Michelle Mulhern, who opposes the law recognising the risk of suicide as a ground for a termination, said the bill might very well be unconstitutional and unworkable.
Fine Gael Senator Fidelma Healy Eames has said that she is not happy with the bill.
“At this point I can genuinely say I’m not happy. I’m not happy, because the bill is conceding on the fundamental principle of life,” she said speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Pat Kenny.
“We need to stop and think seriously here about what we’re doing.
“My reading of it would be that what we’re actually doing with this bill is that we are creating and fabricating a situation to make it legal to be able to intentionally take and target the life of a baby when there is absolutely no psychiatric evidence to support doing so and where it’s not good for the mother or the pregnant woman.”
The Government last night agreed the wording for proposed abortion legislation to give effect to the X case ruling.
Following a lengthy meeting of Cabinet to resolve differences between Fine Gael and Labour over the contentious issue of suicide, Ministers agreed to publish the Heads of the Bill for the Protection of Life During Pregnancy.
The name of the legislation was changed from the previously titled Protection of Maternal Life Bill.
Under the proposals, the procedures for assessing that risk differ depending on the woman’s condition. Under the terms of the draft legislation, one doctor will be able to make a decision on whether to terminate a pregnancy in an emergency situation in which a mother’s life is in danger.
Where there is risk of loss of a woman’s life from physical illness – but where the situation is not an emergency and suicide intent is not a factor – two doctors will be entitled to make the decision.
However, in cases of suicide intent, the suicidal woman will be interviewed by a panel of three doctors, two psychiatrists and one obstetrician, who must agree unanimously. There is provision for an appeal stage but it will only be triggered if a woman is refused a termination. That will involve a review by a further three doctors, who must also agree unanimously.
The group of three doctors who will make an assessment of suicide ideation will comprise an obstetrician and two psychiatrists. They must “jointly certify in good faith” that (a) there is a “real and substantial risk” of the loss of the pregnant woman’s life by way of suicide and (b) “in their reasonable opinion” this risk can be averted only by termination.
The Bill adds that at least one of the three doctors should “consult with the pregnant woman’s general practitioner where practicable”.
There is no requirement for one of the two psychiatrists involved in assessing suicidal intent be a perinatal psychiatrist.
On conscientious objection, the heads state that nothing in the Bill shall be construed as obliging any doctor, nurse or midwife to carry out, or to assist in carrying out, a lawful termination of pregnancy. However, the document adds that “no institution, organisation or third party shall refuse to provide a lawful termination of pregnancy to a woman on grounds of conscientious objection”.
In other words, in the event of a doctor or other health professional having a difficulty in undertaking a required medical procedure, he or she will have a duty to ensure that another colleague take over the care of the patient.