Abortion rules won't be ready for three months

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

Published 27/09/2013|04:00

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AN expert committee has been established to draw up guidelines to activate the new abortion law – but it will be up to three months before it is ready to report.

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The committee met for the first time this week although the legislation was passed in July.

But it is believed the summer holidays delayed the formation of the committee, which is made up of nominees from various representative bodies.

The legislation allows for doctors to intervene where there is a real and substantial risk to the life of a pregnant woman, including threat of suicide.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said the committee held its first meeting last Tuesday.

He said: "There are operational issues which need to be addressed before it can be commenced and the department is liaising with the HSE in this regard."

These include the establishment of a panel of medical practitioners for the purpose of the formal medical review of pregnant women before they have their pregnancy terminated.

A panel of two psychiatrists and one obstetrician will assess a woman who is seeking an abortion on grounds of suicide.

Another panel will review the decision if the request is turned down.

There is also a need to draw up administrative facilities to enable the panel to perform its functions.

TEENAGE

The committee has been asked to complete the work as soon as possible but no later than three months, which means it is likely to be December before it is activated.

The independent chair of the committee is HSE public health specialist Dr Declan Bedford, who has not been involved in any of the public debate preceding the legislation.

The nominee from the Institute of Obstetrician and Gynaecologists is Dr Geraldine Gaffney, an obstetrician in University Hospital Galway, where Savita Halappanavar died from septicaemia almost a year ago.

Others include two perinatal psychiatrists – Dr Joanne Fenton of the Coombe Hospital and Dr Anthony McCarthy of the National Maternity Hospital in Holles St.

Meanwhile, in a report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald said reported high levels of contraceptive use were reflected in the falling number teenage pregnancies.

"Over the period 2007-2011, the number of births to girls aged 10-17 fell by 36.1pc, from 624 to 399. Data indicates that 27pc of children aged 15-17 (31pc of boys and 23pc of girls) reported having had sex.

"Of these, 92pc of boys and 95pc of girls reported having used condoms, while 54pc of boys and 66pc of girls reported use of the contraceptive pill."

She added that the Crisis Pregnancy Programme has also launched a sexual health website, b4udecide.ie.

Irish Independent

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