Thursday 19 September 2019

Abortion debate: Dáil descends into chaos amid shouts of 'This is not Ballymagash'

Mattie McGrath TD. Picture: Frank McGrath
Mattie McGrath TD. Picture: Frank McGrath
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

Calls for the abortion legislation to be pushed through the Oireachtas before Christmas saw the Dáil descend into chaos with TDs warned “this is not Ballymagash”.

A shouting match erupted after Independent TD Mattie McGrath urged Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to withdraw his “disgusting remarks” in which he accused the Rural Independents grouping of filibustering the legislation.

Amid angry shouting the Ceann Comhairle intervened warning TDs “this is not Ballymagash”, referring to a satirical RTÉ show aired in the 1980s.

Mr Varadkar said he hopes seven and a half hours of debate scheduled for debate today will be enough to pass the legislation.

Earlier, it emerged that a doctor would be compelled to provide extensive information to a woman prior to an abortion including the ‘probable characteristics’ of the foetus and alternatives to termination - or face a case for damages, under proposed changes to the legislation.

A new amendment to the law proposed by a group of pro-life TDs also requires the HSE to publish information on available services for pregnant women and children, as well as detail of the “support obligation of the father of a child who is born”.

The proposed amendment states that no termination - unless there is an immediate risk to life - would be carried out without voluntary and informed consent. That consent must be sought by providing substantial information including the method of abortion, the risks associated with the proposed method and with carrying the pregnancy to term.

A doctor would also be obliged to offer information on alternatives to termination.

Under the changes information on the “probable gestational age of the foetus at the time of termination” and the “probable anatomical and physiological characteristics of the foetus at the time the abortion is to be performed” would also need to be conveyed to the woman.

There is also a clause which mandates that if a termination was to be performed at 20 weeks or more doctors must provide “information on foetal pain to the pregnant woman”.

Failure to obtain informed consent would leave the door open for civil action for damages by the woman concerned for breach of duty and disciplinary action.

The HSE would also be required to include the following statement in online and print information laid out in the amendment:

“There are many public and private agencies willing and able to help you to carry your child to term, and to assist you and your child after your child is born, whether you choose to keep your child or to place her or him for adoption. The law requires that your health care professional give you the opportunity to call agencies like these before you undergo a termination of pregnancy.”

Debate on the proposed legislation will continue in the Dáil today amid mounting fears that the legislation will not clear the Houses of the Oireachtas in time to allow services begin in January.

Health Minister Simon Harris has repeatedly expressed confidence that the legislation will get through the Dáil and the Seanad in time.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar accused the Rural Independent grouping in the Dáil of filibustering the law, which was roundly rejected by TDs in the group.

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