No Coalition agreement on X Case legislation

Updated: Sunday, 21 Apr 2013 22:10

A junior minister has described the idea that six doctors would be required to assess a suicidal woman before allowing an abortion as "entirely impractical."

Speaking on RTÉ's This Week, Labour's Jan O'Sullivan was responding to reports in today's Sunday Times that this measure is contained in draft legislation drawn up by Health Minister Dr James Reilly.

Discussions are continuing between the Government parties on proposed legislation to deal with the X Case.

The draft legislation prepared by the Department of Health suggests that a decision on a termination in a case where suicidal intent poses a risk to the life of the mother should be made by six consultants.

Two of the consultants should be obstetricians and four of them should be psychiatrists.

It suggests that one should also be a qualified peri-natal psychiatrist, specialising in mental health issues for women in pregnancy.

There are three peri-natal psychiatrists in the State.

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These proposals have proved unacceptable to the Labour Party and discussions between the Government partners are now focussed on trying to reach an agreed position.

It had been planned to bring the draft legislation to Cabinet on Tuesday, but it is now unclear whether this will happen.

An expert group set up by the Government acknowledged that diagnosing suicide as a threat to life in pregnancy involved a subjective judgment and was difficult.

In its report the expert group suggested the decision could be made by a panel of three consultants – one obstetrician and two psychiatrists.

In recent weeks several Fine Gael TDs and Junior Minister Lucinda Creighton have voiced concerns about the suicide aspect of the legislation leading to a liberal abortion regime.

While the current proposals tabled by Minister Reilly may reassure some of them others in the party may view them as too restrictive.

The view among the Labour leadership is that a requirement for six consultants is not practical and goes well beyond the advice from the Government’s own Expert Group.

The Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar has acknowledged that there is a diversity of opinion within Government over the impending legislation.

Minister Varadkar said the differences are not just between the parties, but within them as well.

He said: "There are a number of sides to the debate, but the objective of the legislation is to make sure women know they are safe during pregnancy and that doctors know they can take the necessary decisions to protect the lives of the mother."

He said he has not seen the draft legislation.

Minister Varadkar said that he would not comment on the suggestion that six doctors would have to be consulted before an abortion can be carried out for a suicidal woman.

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte said earlier he hoped the Government would be able to legislate on the issue.

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