Monday 14 October 2019

Public hospitals to carry out free abortions

Eilish O'Regan and Dearbhail McDonald

Q What is the aim of the proposed legislation?

A It gives legislative effect to the X Case ruling of 1992, allowing for pregnancy to be terminated where there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother, including threat of suicide.

Q How will it work? A An obstetrician can decide to terminate a pregnancy in an emergency where a woman's life is at real and substantial risk due to physical illness. In cases where the risk is less urgent, two obstetricians must jointly agree to intervene. Q What happens if a pregnant woman is suicidal? A In that case, a woman who seeks an abortion, will have to be assessed individually by two psychiatrists and an obstetrician. They will have to come to a unanimous decision. They must meet within seven days and give a decision in seven days. Q And what if she is turned down? A She has the right of appeal to another three specialists. They must be different doctors. Q How real and substantial must the risk be? A The explanatory note to the bill says it is not necessary for doctors to be of the opinion that the risk to life is inevitable or immediate.

Q Where will the termination be carried out? A In one of 19 public maternity units and hospitals. But it can happen in a private hospital in an emergency. Q What about doctors who have a conscientious objection? A They can opt out but are obliged to refer the woman to a colleague.

A panel of willing doctors will be set up. Q Will the termination be free? A Yes, it will be performed in the public hospital. Q Is there an time limit on how late an abortion can be carried out? A No. But if the unborn may be potentially viable outside the womb, doctors must make efforts to sustain its life after delivery. Q Are cases of rape or incest covered? And what about women carrying a baby who will not survive? A There can be no legal termination in these cases.

Irish Independent

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