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Detailed: Scenarios where an abortion can be legally performed

NEW laws on abortion keep the regime restrictive but provide scenarios for women when a termination can be legally performed.

A woman who falls ill during pregnancy and whose life is at risk as a result will be legally entitled to an abortion.

The legislation provides for two different scenarios regarding a physical illness: an emergency putting the woman's life in immediate danger and secondly, a non-emergency case, where a woman is at increased but not immediate risk from illness.

A woman being treated in an acute emergency situation - where it is clear she will die without an abortion - can legally have the procedure carried out.

Only one doctor will be required to make the decision. No second opinion is needed in a bid to save time and allow the life-saving procedure to be performed.

The laws state that clear and appropriate parameters have to be set but that a woman's life should not be at increased risk because of a required number of doctors are not available to certify the procedure or because abortions can only be carried out in certain hospitals.

Another section deals with a pregnant woman who finds herself in a non-emergency situation where there is a threat to her life.

This, for example, might include a case where a woman has an existing physical condition.

If the pregnancy or giving birth was to threaten the woman's life, an abortion could be performed.

A woman in such a scenario would be assessed by two doctors. At least one of them must be an obstetrician or gynaecologist employed at a hospital registered to perform terminations and one may also consult the patient's GP.

The third scenario outlined in the legislation provides for a pregnant woman who is suicidal and intent on taking her life if she does not have an abortion.

In such a case, this woman will be assessed by three doctors - two psychiatrists and an obstetrician or gynaecologist. One of them would consult with the patient's GP.

The patient will be examined to determine if there was a real and substantial risk of her taking her own life. It must also be decided that the suicide risk can only be averted by abortion.

The examining doctors must make a unanimous decision to perform the procedure. Without agreement from all three, the woman would be denied a termination.

However, an appeals process will be put in place for the woman.

Within two weeks of a woman formally lodging an appeal, a review panel, again made up of two psychiatrists and an obstetrician or gynaecologist, will have the final say.

These medics will be different from those who assessed her initially.

If, again, the woman is denied an abortion, the usual medical and psychiatric support would be made available to her, the Government has said.

When an abortion is legally permissible under the legislation and doctors have given the green light, the ultimate decision still resides with the woman as to whether she wants the procedure carried out.

However, Health Minister James Reilly confirmed if a woman in a medical emergency is unconscious and unable to communicate with doctors, they will perform the abortion to save her life.

The legislation also provides for so-called conscientious objection for medics.

This gives them the right to refuse to carry out a termination - based on their personal views.

But, regardless of their own views, they will still have a duty of care to refer the patient and the procedure to another member of staff.

Online Editors

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