Saturday 25 November 2017

Emer O'Kelly: We just play with the fiction of an equal right to life

The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill will do little to safeguard women's lives.

EMER O'KELLY

Savita Halappanavar died in Galway last year having begged to have her unviable pregnancy terminated. The Catholic hierarchy issued a lengthy statement last week condemning the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill. The statement repeats the Church claim that the current medical guidelines for the treatment of women in pregnancy are adequate.

We do not need the Bill, they say, in order to protect women. As published by the Government last week, it will permit termination of pregnancy if there is a substantial threat to the woman's life. If the risk is due to physical illness, the termination will have to be sanctioned by an obstetrician/gynaecologist and one other specialist.

If the threat is immediate, a single consultant may make the decision. If the woman is threatening suicide due to mental distress at being pregnant, permission will have to be given by two psychiatrists and one obstetrician-gynaecologist. That, say the bishops, is not a clarification of the existing legal guidelines for the medical profession, and for the first time will permit the deliberate and intentional killing of an unborn child.

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