Wednesday 25 May 2016

Draft bill would retain criminal ban on abortion

Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor

Published 09/01/2013 | 12:06

THE Oireachtas Health Committee has received a draft version of a pregnancy bill which would retain the criminal ban on abortion - but provide for legal abortions in some cases.

These include threat of suicide, inevitable miscarriage, non viable pregnancies and cases of lethal foetal abnormality.

Barrister and medical doctor Simon Mills' (pictured) Termination of Pregnancy Bill would not provide for legal abortion in cases of rape or incest.

The draft bill was submitted by Mr Mills on day two of the public hearings on abortion, which today features contributions by lawyers.

The draft bill restates the legal ban on abortion, with a prison term of up to to 12 years for unlawful terminations and includes a conscientious objection clause for medical doctors who do not wish to participate in legal abortions.

The committee heard that, as a GP, Mr Mills had dealt with a small number of women seeking termination in pregnancy who were suffering from depression and who were suicidal.

Mr Mills said that he believed that his draft bill was a "a convincing first stab" at a law built around common common ground and consensus and an attempt, made in good faith, to move the abortion discussion on from rhetoric to resolution.

Sinn Fein TD Caoimhin O'Caolain commended Mr Mills on his drafting skills and asked whether cases of lethal foetal abnormalities could be addressed within the constitutional framework.

Legal academic Jennifer Schweppe said that where the foetus has no capacity to survive outside the womb, that is not considered "life" for the purposes of article 40.3.3 "We are talking about life which has the capacity to be born," said Ms Schweppe.

She said that a there was no need for a constitutional amendment where doctors are of the belief the foetus has no capacity be born.

And she added: "What is inside me now is a foetus, it is not a baby. I am not a mother, I am a pregnant woman."

Ms Schweppe said that the medical profession would be diminished by suggestions that they would terminate pregnancies in a more general way of the Government legislated for the X case.

The hearings continue.

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