Wednesday 16 January 2019

Experts to address mental health risks for women denied abortions

Stock photo
Stock photo

Shona Murray

The Committee on the Eighth Amendment will hear from a range of medical experts who will address the mental health risks to women from denial of abortion services.

It will also hear from witnesses who have personal experience of women whose pregnancies were given a diagnosis of foetal abnormality and chose to have an abortion as a result.

Tom O'Malley SC, senior lecturer in law at NUIG, will discuss the legal issues that may arise if rape and other sexual offences were accepted as a reason for permitting a termination of pregnancy. Last week the committee voted overwhelmingly not to keep the Eighth Amendment in full. It is now assessing what legal recommendation it will make to the Government as to what should replace it should it be repealed and replaced in a referendum due next May or June.

As part of three separate sittings today, Dr Veronica O'Keane, a professor of psychiatry, will say there "can never" be an academic literature for the situations the committee will address. Dr O'Keane will also address the "mental health consequences" for what she will describe as the "two classes of women who need abortion services: those who can't travel and those who do travel".

She will discuss the "vulnerability" of the women she sees in her own practice who are unable to travel "because of hostility by abusive partners or threats from their community because abortion is unacceptable culturally". She will also talk about the plight of women "who are too sick to travel".

Dr Maeve Eogan, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, from the Rotunda Hospital, will speak about the difficulties that will arise if abortion legislation is made slightly less restrictive so as to only include instances of rape or incest. Dr Eogan will say it would "absolutely not be appropriate" to mandate that rape victims be obliged to report the details and circumstances of such incidents to An Garda Síochána or any other regulatory body prior to being 'approved' for termination of pregnancy.

Irish Independent

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