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Live: Courts not place to deal with abortion disputes

THE courts are not the appropriate place to deal with disputes about termination of pregnancy, the Oireachtas committee considering the draft abortion bill has been told.

But the courts may be required to intervene in cases where women are turned down for terminations and women may require legal representation if their request for pregnancy is denied by a panel of obstetricians/gynaecologists and psychiatrists under the planned law.

This morning the Oireachtas committee led by Fine Gael TD Jerry Buttimer heard from a number of legal experts on the potential implications of the bill which, if passed, will give effect to the 1992 X case.

Senior Counsel Tony O'Connor told the committee that it was in the public interest that doctors have legal clarity when making clinical decisions.

"Such clarity as can be introduced through legislation will assist patients undoubtedly," said Mr O'Connor who said that the use of the word "abortion" heightened people's feelings about the issue.

The barrister encouraged the committee and the Oireachtas to scrutinise each and every definition in order to exclude interpretations which could lead to "unnecessary adversarial contests" in the courts about the rights of anyone other than the rights of the gestational mother and the unborn life in this legislation.

"The High Court and the Supreme Court is not the place to fight out the issues anticipated," said Mr O'Connor.

Barrister Simon Mills said that the criminal provision in the draft Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013 was "over broad".

Head 19 of the bill states that it shall be an offence for a person to do any act with the intent to destroy unborn life.

But Mr Mills said that this provision is "a significant overstatement" of the 1861 which criminalises abortion.

Barrister Paul Brady, co author of a textbook of psychiatry and the law, said that there was a need to "be honest" about aspects of the bill which, he said, permits termination of pregnancy at any stage in pregnancy.

Mr Brady said that head four of the bill will provide a statutory basis, for the first time in Irish law, to provide for termination up until the time a baby is delivered.

The bill does not require termination to be an option of last or ultimate resort, said Mr Brady.

"Many have called this bill restrictive, but that begs the question restrictive to what?" said Mr Brady.

"It is not about casting aspersions on anyone," said Mr Brady who added that the absence of any level of estimates of need is "very problematic".

Caroline Simons, a solicitor and legal adviser to the Pro Life Campaign, said that legislating for termination of pregnancy in cases of suicidal ideation was "experimental treatment"

The hearings continue.

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