A LEADING barrister has rejected claims from the Taoiseach and Health Minister that proposed legislation to change Ireland's strict abortion regime does not alter existing laws.
Barrister-at-law Paul Brady said legislating for threatened suicide as grounds for abortion marks a distinct change in the law.
"It is clear that head four marks a change in the law and I don't think it's accurate to say otherwise," Mr Brady said.
"Because it creates for the first time a statutory basis in Irish law for what may be a direct and intentional termination of an unborn child's life."
The legal expert made his comments as the third and final day of public hearings before the Oireachtas Health Committee got under way.
If enacted, the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill 2013 will legalise abortion where there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother, including the threat of suicide.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has continually insisted the proposed legislation merely clarifies existing laws and provides doctors with a legal framework to work under.
Health Minister James Reilly claimed on Friday, when medical experts gave evidence to the committee during its first day of hearings, that the legislation clarifies what is already "lawfully available".
The bill aims to legislate for the X case judgment from Ireland's Supreme Court, which found abortion is legal if there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother, including the threat of suicide.
The case was taken by a 14-year-old rape victim who became pregnant and was refused permission to travel for an abortion.
The loosening of the rules is also intended to meet requirements from a European court decision that found a woman in remission from cancer should not have been forced to travel oversees for a termination.
"Under head four, it will be statutorily provided for that the aim of the procedure can be to bring about the death of the unborn child," Mr Brady said.
"That will be the desired aim of the procedure - not some other form of treatment, not some form of relocation, not some form of therapy to the mother which has that consequence.
"But that it's the actual goal of that procedure. That's a new departure."