Thursday 14 December 2017

Regulation of abortion law 'not appropriate' - Savita inquiry expert

Prof Rebecca Cook, Professor Emeritus Sabaratnam Arulkumaran, Dr Rhona Mahony of Holles Street and Dr Caitriona Henchion at the IFPA meeting. Photo: Arthur Carron
Prof Rebecca Cook, Professor Emeritus Sabaratnam Arulkumaran, Dr Rhona Mahony of Holles Street and Dr Caitriona Henchion at the IFPA meeting. Photo: Arthur Carron

Robin Schiller

A leading obstetrician who chaired a panel of inquiry into the death of Savita Halappanavar believes that regulation of abortion in criminal law is "not appropriate".

Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran also stated that his fellow obstetricians should assemble a forum and advise the Government on Ireland's guidelines around abortion.

The distinguished health care professional was speaking at the Irish Family Planning Association's (IFPA) annual seminar last night, which also allowed members of the public to enter the discussion.

The seminar - 'Reforming Ireland's abortion laws: Developing women-centred healthcare practice in post-repeal Ireland' - discussed measures that could be taken should the Eight Amendment be repealed.

Professor Arulkumaran said the criminalisation of women seeking an abortion was "unacceptable".

"My thought would be to assemble all obstetricians into a forum to take the responsibility to tackle this problem, but it can't be tackled as an individual," he said.

Niall Behan labelled abortion laws 'a shambles'. Photo: Tom Burke
Niall Behan labelled abortion laws 'a shambles'. Photo: Tom Burke

"Who else can provide the guidelines and disadvantages to lawyers and governments other than our own profession," he said.

"If a woman goes to get an abortion, it isn't as if she is going to the dentist. She is going under severe trauma, and yet she is treated like a criminal. That is unacceptable," he added.

Professor Arulkumaran chaired the panel of inquiry into the death of Ms Halappanavar who was denied a termination after suffering a miscarriage.

The 31-year-old was admitted to Galway University Hospital when she was 17 weeks pregnant. She was suffering a miscarriage, but a developing infection went undetected. She was repeatedly refused a termination as the foetal heartbeat was present. Days later, she went into septic shock and died.

Also speaking at the seminar was Dr Rhona Mahony, the Master of the National Maternity Hospital, Dublin, who described how clinical decision making relating to abortion was being "distorted" by the Irish constitution.

"As a medical professional and practitioner we have many challenges for our patients which we see on a daily basis," she said.

"My difficulty is that clinical decision making is distorted by our current constitution and the same time our constitution protects women who wish to travel outside of Ireland (for abortion).

"Our primary consideration should be clinical, it should not be legal and sometimes we find clinical decision making is distorted, and this is not a good thing."

Niall Behan, CEO of the IFPA who opened the discussion, described Ireland's abortion laws as "a shambles".

Members of the panel also discussed sex education in Ireland. Other speakers included Professor Rebecca Cook and Dr Caitriona Henchion.

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Also in this section