Reilly meeting Labour junior ministers to agree heads of bill in abortion issue

Wednesday 24 April 2013 23.52
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Minister James Reilly told TDs and senators that there was no question of six doctors examining women who claimed to be at risk from suicide if they had to continue their pregnancies
Minister James Reilly told TDs and senators that there was no question of six doctors examining women who claimed to be at risk from suicide if they had to continue their pregnancies
Dr Anthony McCarthy said psychiatrists will not be Ireland's 'social police'
Dr Anthony McCarthy said psychiatrists will not be Ireland's 'social police'

It is understood that the four ministers involved in talks about proposed abortion legislation are due to resume their meeting early tomorrow morning.

Minister for Health James Reilly and Ministers of State at the Department of Health, Kathleen Lynch and Alex White, along with Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald, spent several hours this evening discussing the proposals.

Labour Cabinet sources were critical of Minister Reilly's performance after yesterday's Cabinet meeting, complaining that he had failed to produce any formal draft.

Other Government sources though insisted that in the absence of broad political agreement, it would have been inappropriate for Mr Reilly to table any documents.

Labour ministers’ misgivings focus on what one described as the 'multiplicity' of doctors involved in determining cases where a woman claimed continuing with a pregnancy would expose her to a risk of suicide under the scheme put forward by Minister Reilly.

An expert group said that two doctors would be sufficient in these circumstances but reports continue to suggest that Minister Reilly favours up to six medics being involved in two stages.

A meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party tonight heard strong criticism of the Government timetable for proposed abortion legislation.

More than a dozen speakers voiced concerns that backbenchers were being railroaded as some speakers put it, and that once the heads of the bill emerged after next week's Cabinet meeting, there would be little room for discussion.

However, Taoiseach Enda Kenny insisted that there would be ample time for the party to examine the measure, telling the meeting that the heads would be discussed in the Oireachtas Health Committee before being finalised.

The health minister told TDs and senators that there was no question of six doctors examining women who claimed to be at risk from suicide if they had to continue their pregnancies.

He said discussions were ongoing but he categorically denied the suggestion, which had been the focus of Labour misgivings about his plans.

Meanwhile, Irish psychiatrists have said they will not participate in any compulsory assessment of pregnant women who have suicidal ideation and are seeking an abortion.

The College of Psychiatry in Ireland said today its members will not be the country's "social police".

The president of the representative body for psychiatrists said that forcing vulnerable women to undergo mandatory psychiatric assessments of up to 12 people was abusive.

Speaking to RTÉ News, Dr Anthony McCarthy said compelling psychiatrists to take part in such a system was abusing their profession, which is supposed to offer comfort, compassion and support to people in vulnerable situations.

Dr McCarthy said the Government has to deal with the abortion issue and legislate adequately for it, and should not pass the social control of a situation onto psychiatrists.

He said it was the position of the college that they would not take part in such panels of forced assessments.

Dr McCarthy said psychiatrists would be happy to continue to provide second opinions, as is normal professional practice, but would not "collude" in any process of formalised compulsory assessment panels.

Psychiatrists would not act as judges, tasked with assessing whether a woman was feeling suicidal, he said.

He said asking psychiatrists to test the truth of women's stories was extremely abusive.