Thursday 21 February 2019

Eilish O'Regan: 'Law faces test but women will be spared ordeal of UK journey'

 

The Coombe Hospital is currently the only one of the three main maternity hospitals which is not providing full service under the abortion law. Photo: PA
The Coombe Hospital is currently the only one of the three main maternity hospitals which is not providing full service under the abortion law. Photo: PA
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

The new abortion law has been operational for nearly three weeks and apart from the medical concerns about the rushed roll out and a few minor pro-life demonstrations it has been without major controversy.

The claims in the Dáil yesterday that a woman who was diagnosed as carrying a baby with a fatal foetal abnormality after being certified for a termination by two doctors was later denied an abortion in the Coombe Hospital marks the first storm to emerge so far.

It was alleged the board of the hospital told her to wait for spontaneous miscarriage. The Coombe has since said its board has no role in determining whether the right criteria have been met and said the reports are untrue.

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There will inevitably be grey areas which will come to light as the law is tested in practice in the months to come.

While confusion reigns about the exact circumstances of this case, the law is clear.

If a woman is certified by two doctors as meeting the criteria for an abortion under the law she is entitled to the procedure.

If the hospital where she is diagnosed cannot do the termination she should be referred to another where it will be carried out.

A hospital board has no role in determining whether a termination should be refused or go ahead.

If a woman applies for a termination under the law and is refused she has the right of appeal.

The Coombe Hospital is currently the only one of the three main maternity hospitals which is not providing full service under the abortion law.

It is not taking referrals of women who are seeking a medical termination between nine and 12 weeks of pregnancy.

It made it clear in December it would be some weeks before it was fully ready.

However, according to the Department of Health, the hospital is providing terminations for fatal foetal abnormality and also in emergency situations.

There remain large parts of the country where the abortion service from maternity hospitals is uneven.

The HSE said nine of the 19 maternity units are providing a service and others are planning to do so in the future.

The law allows for termination of pregnancy in cases where a baby has a diagnosed fatal foetal abnormality and will die either "before or within 28 days of birth".

Previously, parents who wished to terminate in these cases had to go to the UK.

Liverpool Women's Hospital for many years accepted self-referrals from women with complex pregnancy problems that sometimes resulted in terminations.

Parents who had to make this harrowing journey spoke of the trauma involved and were particularly relieved others would not have to endure the same ordeal when it became legal here this month.

Irish Independent

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