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Minister will get new powers to suspend hospital terminations

THE new laws on abortion which were published today, include provision for the Health Minister to suspend terminations at any of the 24 hospitals in which they're permitted, if they are deemed to be operating the act inappropriately.

There will be no limitations or time-frame to say at what stage in the pregnancy a termination can be carried out.

And the legislation does not include a "sunset clause" which would allow the laws to lapse on a certain date unless they are reviewed.

 

SUICIDE

Two psychiatrists will have to sign-off on whether a pregnant woman's life is at risk from suicide.

Health Minister James Reilly said today: "It is a rare occasion when this law will come in to play."

He apologised for the delay in publishing the bill which was eventually released after midnight.

"We hoped to have it ready around 9 o'clock last night, there were all sorts of technical problems with doting the Is and crossing the Ts," he said.

"We have produced what we consider to be a balanced set of proposals aimed at meeting the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights.

"I believe that pregnant women and their doctors will now benefit from the far greater legal clarity this Bill will bring."

Pro-life campaigners believe that the rules announced in the early hours of this morning are too liberal. They point out that once the legislation is passed in the Dail there will be scope for abortions in cases where the mother is suicidal.

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore claimed the controversial laws will take women and medics out of a legal limbo.

Mr Gilmore said if the Bill is passed, every one of the tens of thousands of pregnant women who are admitted to hospital every year will know that any action which may be needed to save her life in an emergency will be taken.

"If this Bill is passed there will be no need for worry, no reason for doubt on the part of the woman, her family or the medical professionals concerned," the Labour party leader said.

If enacted, the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill 2013 will legalise abortion where there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother, including the threat of suicide.

The Bill aims to legislate for the X case judgment from Ireland's Supreme Court, which found abortion is legal if there is a real and substantial risk.

The case was taken by a 14-year-old rape victim who became pregnant and was refused permission to travel for an abortion.

The proposed law states one doctor will be required to certify that a termination is justified in the case of medical emergencies. In such emergencies, the doctor involved will be required to certify his/her actions within 72 hours.

In a case of a real and substantial risk to a woman's life arising from suicide the assessment process will involve three specialists, including one obstetrician/gynaecologist and two psychiatrists – including one specialist with experience of dealing with the mental health of pregnant women – must jointly and unanimously agree and certify that the termination of pregnancy is the only treatment that will save the mother's life.

In such cases, where feasible, GPs will be consulted.

Review committees must make a decision in less than seven days, it added, and anyone caught intentionally destroying unborn human life will face up to 14 years in prison.

Mr Gilmore said: "It is 21 years since the Supreme Court decided the X Case. In the intervening time a whole generation of women and their medical advisors has been in a legal limbo. I have long argued that it is high time for Government to do its duty and bring an end to this legal limbo. This Government will do just that."

kdoyle@herald.ie


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