WOMEN who become suicidal at a late stage of pregnancy will be allowed to get an early delivery – but their babies will have to be kept alive in hospital incubators by doctors.
The Government has now confirmed that women who are suicidal and approaching the final stages of their 40-week pregnancy will be entitled to get an early delivery – but not an abortion.
And, as the Oireachtas health committee concludes almost 30 hours of hearings, the Coalition has said doctors will have a duty to keep the baby alive.
But one prominent Labour TD stated that allowing for such early deliveries was "unheard of in any civilised society".
Junior Minister for Primary Care Alex White laid out the official position by confirming that a woman with a late term pregnancy who was suicidal could get an early delivery – but not an abortion.
"This means that where a woman has a pregnancy that puts her life at risk, and her foetus is or may be viable, she may have a right to bring the pregnancy to an end, but not a right to insist that the life of the foetus be deliberately ended," he said.
There had been criticism of lack of a time limit for getting an abortion in the Government's draft legislation – compared to the general 24-week pregnancy limit in Britain and the USA. Nearly all pregnancies are viable after the 27th week.
Under the Government's draft legislation, unborn babies which are old enough to survive such a procedure are likely to be kept alive in a hospital incubator.
Labour chairman Colm Keaveney, in his first intervention in the debate, said he believed these provisions in the draft legislation were "unworkable".
"It technically allows for late term terminations/early delivery of healthy babies which is unheard of in any civilised society," he said.
Mr Keaveney questioned how the panel of three doctors – two psychiatrists and an obstetrician – would be able to come to an agreement.
"For example, if two psychiatric consultants recommend that a termination is the only solution for a suicidal woman, will a consultant obstetrician ever recommend the late term termination/early delivery of a baby of 30-week gestation for whom they have a duty of care?" he asked.
The draft legislation is now going to be published by Government, and the final laws pushed through the Dail by the end of July.