Judge dismisses abortion fears
A retired Supreme Court judge has dismissed fears that proposed changes to Ireland's strict abortion regime could open floodgates to widespread terminations.
During a day of clashing views over whether the threat of suicide should be included as grounds for abortion, Catherine McGuinness also rejected suggestions the new laws would legislate for doctors to simply kill babies.
"We're talking about real-life Irish doctors, not some legal concept," said Mrs Justice McGuinness.
She added that the proposals were "sufficiently rigorous" to ensure that very few cases would be dealt with under the divisive element that legislates for the threat of suicide as grounds for abortion.
The former judge made her comments on the third and final day of public hearings on the proposed legislation before the Oireachtas Health Committee.
If enacted, the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill 2013 will legalise abortion where there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother, including the threat of suicide.
The Bill aims to legislate for the X case judgment from Ireland's Supreme Court, which found abortion is legal if there is a real and substantial risk. The case was taken by a 14-year-old rape victim who became pregnant and was refused permission to travel for an abortion.
The loosening of the rules is also intended to meet requirements from a European court decision that found a woman in remission from cancer should not have been forced to travel oversees for a termination.
Mrs Justice McGuinness was among a string of legal experts to give her opinion on the new laws. The cross-party committee will report back to the Health Minister with its findings before the next stage when the legislation will go before the Dail.
The Government committed to reforming the ban on abortion by July following the death of Savita Halappanavar in a Galway hospital last year after being denied a termination during miscarriage. Taoiseach Enda Kenny has continually insisted the proposed abortion legislation merely clarifies existing laws.