Oireachtas Members Told of “Remaining Flaws” in New Abortion Law

As the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children met this afternoon (28 May 2013) to finalise its abortion law report to Government, medical, legal and policy experts from three leading groups told TDs and Senators of the “remaining flaws” in the legislation.

Doctors for Choice (DFC), the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) and the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) joined forces in Leinster House today to provide TDs and Senators with their expert analysis of the General Scheme of the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill 2013.

Dr Mark Murphy of DFC said “GPs alone manage uncomplicated pregnancies until 16 weeks gestation. If a woman presents in early pregnancy with a crisis it will be GPs in liaison with psychiatrists who will be managing her care. Obstetricians will not and need not be involved, as the pertinent issue will be mental health rather than obstetric health. GPs will not be “consulted” in clinical reality but will be the key clinician involved in the crisis pregnancy. The role of General Practice needs to be recognised and included in a redrafted Bill’.

DFC’s Dr Peadar O’Grady added that Doctors For Choice “recommend that two doctors certify, or not, the procedure in the situation of a threatened suicide: a GP and a Consultant Psychiatrist. We also recommend that the criminal sanction of 14 years for both woman and doctor be dropped from the proposed Bill, and that women with fatal foetal anomalies should be included in the scope of a redrafted  Bill”.

Deirdre Duffy, ICCL Senior Research and Policy Programme Manager said:

“By and large, we consider that this Bill is faithful to the settled constitutional position established under the X case. Not only would the very constitutionality of the proposed legislation be called into question by the omission of the suicide ground, it would be likely to leave Ireland in continuing breach of its international human rights obligations.”

“The ICCL is also obliged to point out that the State’s obligations in relation to abortion under the Convention run deeper than merely implementing the European Court judgment in A, B and C. The current treatment of women with pregnancies involving a defined set of lethal foetal abnormalities potentially falls foul of Ireland’s human rights obligations. The ICCL considers that it is constitutionally permissible under Irish law to provide for the termination of such pregnancies”, Ms Duffy concluded.

NWCI Director Orla O’Connor said: “We are extremely critical of the invisibility of women’s voices and women’s experiences in discussions on the Heads of Bill. Women must be at the heart of the debate.  In reality women will have real difficulty invoking their constitutional right to an abortion under the onerous procedures proposed by this Bill.”

“The NWCI have great concern over the continued criminalization of abortion in this country and the detrimental effect that it has on women’s physical and mental health. Criminalization will affect women accessing health services and deepen the chilling effect on both women and their doctors. Head 19 must be removed from the Bill to provide for full decriminalization of abortion in Ireland.”