Taoiseach Enda Kenny says bill does not change Irish abortion law

Wednesday 01 May 2013 23.53
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Enda Kenny said that the test was a 'demonstrably more rigorous process' in the case of suicidal risk
Enda Kenny said that the test was a 'demonstrably more rigorous process' in the case of suicidal risk
The Taoiseach said that the agreed bill would bring certainty to pregnant women and legal clarity to doctors
The Taoiseach said that the agreed bill would bring certainty to pregnant women and legal clarity to doctors
The Govt also stressed that the right-to-life of the unborn will be upheld
The Govt also stressed that the right-to-life of the unborn will be upheld
Eamon Gilmore said that the Government was legislating for the X Case, 'no more and no less'
Eamon Gilmore said that the Government was legislating for the X Case, 'no more and no less'

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said that the Protection of Life in Pregnancy Bill will not change Ireland's law on abortion.

Speaking at a press briefing in Government Buildings this morning, Mr Kenny said that the agreed bill would bring certainty to pregnant women and legal clarity to doctors.

Mr Kenny said the Protection of Life in Pregnancy Bill operates strictly within the parameters set out by the Supreme Court and does not create any new rights.

The Taoiseach also stressed that the right-to-life of the unborn will be upheld.

He said that an abortion can only be legally permitted where doctors have unanimously decided that it is the only treatment that will avert a risk to the life of a mother.

The test was a "demonstrably more rigorous process" in the case of suicidal risk, he stated.

Mr Kenny told the news conference that the issue of abortion is contentious and divisive.

He said the new legislation was about saving lives, both the life of the mother and the life of the unborn, and that it restates the general prohibition on abortion.

Mr Kenny said that the Government was determined to put in place a process that would not divide the country.

There has been mixed reaction to the bill.

Speaking at the same news conference, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said that what the Government was doing with the bill was legislating for the X Case, "no more and no less".

Mr Gilmore said it is already legal in Ireland to end a pregnancy where there is a risk to the life of a mother.

However, Mr Gilmore added that a failure of successive governments had led to continued uncertainty.

He said that the proposed legislation will provide a workable solution to vindicate the rights of women, and to ensure that women's voices will be heard.

Minister for Health James Reilly said the Government is bound by the Constitution, the ABC judgment in Europe, and the Supreme Court X Case ruling and within there its remit for action falls.

He said he believed they had struck the right balance in the heads of the bill.

Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald said women and medics have needed clarity and consistency about abortion.

Ms Fitzgerald said women have needed to know there is a process they can access.

She said that the proposals give women access to what is already in the Constitution.

Minister of State at the Department of Health Kathleen Lynch said there has been a lot of discussion about how many doctors would be involved in the assessment.

But ultimately, she said, this is about peer consultation, not about an outside body judging professionals.

Ms Lynch said there have been instances in Ireland of poor outcomes for women who were treated by a single professional.

She said we must ensure that women's lives are protected.

The Government published the draft legislation to deal with the 1992 Supreme Court judgment in the X Case last night.

The heads of the Protection of Life in Pregnancy Bill were agreed after a lengthy Cabinet meeting.

They allow for terminations when there is a real and substantial threat to the life of the mother, including the threat of suicide.

The draft bill states that terminations must be carried out in public obstetric units, except in emergencies, when a single medical practitioner can approve an abortion.

In the case of a risk of loss of life from physical illness, two doctors must certify that there is a real and substantial risk to the mother's life.

In the case of a risk of suicide, three doctors must jointly sanction an abortion - an obstetrician and a psychiatrist from the hospital involved, and another psychiatrist.

If a woman is refused an abortion, she can appeal to a committee, which must meet within seven days of her request, and report within another seven days.

There is a conscientious objection clause for doctors, nurses and midwives, and anyone convicted of performing an illegal abortion, including the pregnant woman, could face up to 14 years in prison, or an unlimited fine.

Fine Gael parliamentary party discusses legislation

The Fine Gael parliamentary party has discussed the plans for abortion legislation.

The atmosphere was said to be calm, but it is still expected that there will be some defections when the measure is voted on in the Dáil and Seanad.

The five hour meeting heard contributions from across the parliamentary party on both sides of the argument.

There were some emotional speeches and occasional flashes of anger but the atmosphere was largely devoid of the heat of last week’s discussions.

Enda Kenny outlined the proposals and Minister for Health James Reilly added more detail before the first contribution from Galway TD Brian Walsh who had surprised his colleagues by telling a weekend newspaper he would be voting against the measure.

Deputy Walsh, who had a half hour meeting with the Taoiseach immediately ahead of the meeting, said he was sorry about the position he had put his colleagues telling them some of his concerns had now been met.

However, it is understood he is still minded to vote against the measure.

The Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meets tomorrow.

Deputies and TDs are split on whether to oppose the measure with those who want to back the measure said to be in the minority.

Keywords: abortion