independent

Friday 18 April 2014

Abortion regime 'still restrictive'

Psychiatric consultants warned there is no medical evidence to prove that an abortion can successfully treat a suicidal patient

Ireland's abortion regime will continue to be restrictive despite allowing for terminations when a woman is suicidal, a junior minister has said.

Alex White gave the assurance as psychiatric consultants, led by University College Dublin Professor Patricia Casey, warned there is no medical evidence to prove that an abortion can successfully treat a suicidal patient.

The contentious legislation is to be examined by the Cabinet next week. Amid the continuing dispute over the need for six doctors to assess a woman's request for a termination on suicide grounds, Mr White said progress was being made on the reforms.

"The legislation that will be brought in will be quite restrictive in the context of the X Case judgment," he said. "It's important to remember that the legislation will still mean we have a very restrictive regime in Ireland in relation to the termination of pregnancy.

"We want to put safeguards into that legislation, but don't want to put in any kind of excessive or inordinate obstacles to the exercise by a woman of what is a constitutional right."

The coalition parties held talks on the heads of the Bill as the group of concerned psychiatrists revealed up to four out of 10 of their colleagues agree that legislating for the X Case will mean legislating for suicidality.

Dr Bernie McCabe, of Navan Mental Health Services, called on the Government to consider concerns that the proposed changes in law will not help expectant women in the case of threatened suicide. She said: "In the treatment of suicidal patients there is no role for abortion. There is plenty of treatment available for suicidal patients."

Dr McCabe, Prof Casey and colleagues Martin Mahon and Richelle Kirrane spoke out at the gates of Leinster House before they addressed cross-party TDs and Senators about their concerns.

The group sent letters to 302 of the approximately 350 consultant psychiatrists nationwide asking if they were deeply concerned at the Government's plan to legislate along the lines of the X Case, and if they believed any legislation that includes a proposal that an abortion should form part of the treatment for suicidal ideation has no basis in the medical evidence available. Only 42% responded. Dr McCabe said out of 127 replies 113 agreed.

Meanwhile, Prof Casey refused to be drawn on Dr Reilly's handling of the latest controversy after he stated on Monday that women in a distressed state with suicidal ideation would not be subjected to an interview with six different medical consultants, but did not go on to explain the draft Bill. She added: "I can't comment on what Minister Reilly is doing, he has to sort this out for himself."

Press Association

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