THE master of the biggest maternity hospital in the country has pleaded with TDs to legislate for abortion so she can safely terminate pregnancies without fearing jail.
Dr Rhona Mahony, master of the National Maternity Hospital in Holles Street, Dublin, said sections 58 and 59 of 1861 Offences Against the Person Act, which criminalise abortion, remain in force, despite medical guidelines being in place for abortion.
"They remain in force," Dr Mahony told the Oireachtas Health Committee.
"Abortion in Ireland is a criminal offence which is punishable by penal servitude. That law stands today.
"And I need to know that I will not go to jail, if in good faith, I believe it is the right thing to save a woman's life, to terminate her pregnancy, I want to know that I will not go to jail and I want to know, by the way, that she will not go to jail.
"It doesn't matter whether or not anybody has been sentenced to jail before, that is not at issue. The point is there is a significant risk that I could be sent to jail or I believe or perceive there to be a significant risk I might go to jail and that is something I want clarified or further guidance in. I still contend abortion in this country is a criminal offence."
Dr Mahony also said her doctors will not hesitate in carrying out an abortion to save a woman's life.
"If a woman is critically ill and it's very obvious she is likely to die and she will be saved by intervening and treating her, and that treatment involves interrupting or terminating a pregnancy, we will not hesitate to do so," she said.
"It's not about terminating pregnancies by destroying babies. It's about saving women's lives. Women will risk their own lives to reproduce."
Kieran Murphy, the president of the Irish Medical Council, said it received no complaints from women after having an abortion performed on medical grounds.