Sunday 17 December 2017

Reilly tells rebels his bill will prevent new Savita tragedy

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

HEALTH Minister James Reilly has faced down Fine Gael rebels by insisting his abortion bill will help to prevent a repeat of the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar.

It came after Fine Gael TD Billy Timmins – who has lost the party whip for voting against the bill – insisted it would not have made "one iota of difference" to her tragic situation.

Ms Halappanavar 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 agreed with Mr Timmins that the lack of legislation on abortion would not have been the thing that led to Savita's tragic death.

"However, I disagree that the bill would not have had some impact because it would have brought clarity to her and her husband as to what care they were entitled to, and clarity to the doctors as to what were their responsibilities," he said.

The HSE report into her death from septicemia (blood poisoning) found that the key factors were multiple failures by clinical staff to properly assess or monitor her condition.

But it also said 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.

Independent TD Mattie McGrath said Ms Halappanavar's case had been "hijacked" by those who wanted to introduce a liberal abortion law.

But Independent Kildare North TD Catherine Murphy said Ms Halappanavar's life was cut short because the State had failed to provide certainty.

Outlining his opposition to most of the 165 proposed amendments to his abortion bill, Dr Reilly said it was "restrictive" as there was a requirement in the Constitution to equally protect the life of the mother and the unborn child.

"I reiterate that the bill provides for existing rights only. It specifically does not confer any new rights to a termination of pregnancy," he said.

However, he added that it was not true for Independent TD Clare Daly to say a woman had to be at death's door before she could get an abortion to save her life.

Dr Reilly was strongly criticised in the Dail by other rebel Fine Gael TDs who have already lost the party whip for voting against the bill.

Fine Gael Dublin South TD Peter Mathews said younger FG TDs were under "shocking stress" to vote for the bill, even though it went against their consciences.

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


Section nine of the bill, which allows for abortion on the grounds of suicide ideation, was repeatedly brought up by TDs who were voting against the bill, such as Fine Gael Dublin North East's Terence Flanagan.

"As a matter of conscience, I will not be able to support section nine of this bill," he said.

Fianna Fail TD Eamon O'Cuiv said none of the textbooks on psychiatry recommended abortion as a "treatment" for suicidality in pregnancy.

Labour TD Ciara Conway criticised deputies opposed to the bill on the grounds of suicide, saying they were undermining the mental health awareness campaigns they had previously supported.

"But that is all to be wiped clear if a pregnant girl appears in front of you and says she's suicidal," she said.

Irish Independent

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