Thursday 18 January 2018

Patricia Casey: We must learn lessons of UK abortion laws

Yesterday, the Government announced that it will proceed to deal with the European Court of Human Rights judgment in the ABC case by means of legislation and regulation. This will deal with medical conditions that may place women at risk of death and also the risk of suicide as a ground for abortion. It is the latter in which a significant number of people have concerns.

I recently reviewed the reports of the Masters of the three Dublin maternity hospitals covering the periods 1980 to 2011. There were 685,511 deliveries of live babies and in that period there were two deaths by suicide. Both were post delivery and both had long histories of psychiatric illness. Many politicians who favour the inclusion of suicide have suggested the reason for the low rate of suicide here is because women travel to Britain for abortions when they are suicidal.

Yet data, obtained from the Department of Health covering the period 1992 to 2010, shows that under Section F of the 1967 Act (dealing with abortions carried out to "save the life of the mother") none were performed on Irish women and under Section G (dealing with abortions to "prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman") none were performed on Irish women.

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