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Reilly caves in as 'one, two, three' abortion law is agreed

The Government has agreed draft legislation that proposes a 'one, two, three' formula for deciding where abortion is appropriate.

Health Minister Dr James Reilly caved in to Labour Party demands on the suicide test in the abortion legislation.

The Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill 2013 is available in PDF format here 

The draft legislation proposes the procedure for approving that an abortion be carried out, which requires the consent of:

• One consultant in the case of emergency.

• Two consultants in the case of a physical risk.

• Three consultants in cases of a suicide threat.

In the case of a suicide threat:

• The three consultants must be unanimous in their opinion.

• The team of three is composed of one gynaecologist and two psychiatrists.

• One of the psychiatrists does not have to be a perinatal psychiatrist.

• Where the application for an abortion is refused, an appeals process is in place.

• The appeal team is composed of one gynaecologist and two psychiatrists.

• Again, the three must come to a unanimous opinion.

The provision is needed because a law dating back to 1861 making abortion illegal is being repealed under the new legislation.

Additional measures contained in the legislation include:

• A provision for further guidance from professional bodies working in the area.

• Annual HSE reports of the number of abortions, reviews and other relevant information.

• A stipulation that any appeal against a decision to refuse an abortion must be conducted within seven days.

In a statement, the Government said it had agreed to refer the General Scheme of the Bill to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children and to request that it should review the scheme and report on its deliberations to the Minister for Health.

The Government said the provisions of the legislation were "strictly within the parameters of the Constitution and of the Supreme Court Judgment in the X case".

"The proposed legislation sets out a clear legal framework for women and for medical practitioners in Ireland.

"It will provide legal clarity for the medical profession of the circumstances where a medical termination is permissible where there is a real and substantial risk to the life, as distinct from the health, of a woman as a result of a pregnancy," it said.

Ministers literally went through the legislation line by line during six hours of deliberations by the Cabinet.

After Dr Reilly's botched attempt to bring in a six-doctor panel to assess an application for an abortion where there is a threat of suicide, the final proposals are watered down.

The Government published the draft outline of the legislation late last night.

The draft legislation will now be passed to the Oireachtas health committee.

Members of the Fine Gael and Labour parliamentary parties were contacted about the legislation and the issue is expected to dominate both parties' meetings today.

Several Fine Gael TDs indicated last night they were not happy with the outcome.

Briefing

This morning, the members of the sub-committee tasked with drawing up the legislation will hold a briefing on its contents.

Dr Reilly, Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald and Labour junior ministers Alex White and Kathleen Lynch will field questions on the legislation.

Several Cabinet sources told the Irish Independent yesterday's meeting was positive with a calm debate.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he still expected to pass the legislation before the summer break for the Dail at the end of July.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan said the lengthy Cabinet meeting was "amicable", despite reports of rancour.

Irish Independent