Wednesday 13 December 2017

Reilly insists that his bill would have had “some impact” in preventing the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

HEALTH Minister James Reilly has insisted that his abortion bill would have had “some impact” in preventing the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar.

She had been seeking an abortion while suffering a miscarriage but died four days after being admitted to University College Hospital Galway last October.

Dr Reilly was responding to rebel Fine Gael TD Billy Timmins, who said the abortion bill would not have prevented her death and that it was an injustice to maintain otherwise.

Dr Reilly said he agreed that the lack of legislation on abortion would not have been the thing that led to Savita Halappanavar’s tragic death.

“But unlike the last speaker, I disagree that it wouldn’t have had some impact because it would have brought clarity – clarity to her and her husband to what they were entitled to and clarity to the doctors are to what their responsibilities were,” he said.

The HSE report into Ms Halappanavar’s death from septicaemia found that the key factors were multiple failures by clinical staff to properly assess or monitor her condition. But it also said that there had been an  over-emphasis on the need not to intervene until the foetal heartbeat stopped – with the lack of clear guidelines being a contributory factor.

Dr Reilly said the abortion bill was “restrictive” because there was a requirement in the Constitution to equally protect the life of the mother and the unborn child. He was strongly criticised in the Dail by other rebel Fine Gael TDs who have already lost the party whip for voting against the abortion bill.

Fine Gael Dublin South TD Peter Mathews said it was shocking that younger Fine Gael TDs were under pressure to vote for the bill.

“I hope before this debate is out that the leadership of our party wakes up to the truth of the situation,” he said.

Sinn Fein TD Peader Toibin – who is defying his party by voting against the bill- criticised the decision to shut down debate on the abortion bill at midnight. But Dr Reilly said that there had to be a time limit at some point.

“I personally have no problem staying here all night and all morning if necessary,” he said.

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