165 amendments to abortion legislation submitted

Updated: Tuesday, 09 Jul 2013 22:10

A total of 165 amendments have been submitted for the report stage of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill.

The amendments are to be discussed in the Dáil tomorrow, with a final vote on the legislation due at 10 p.m.

There is concern among opponents of the legislation that due to the number of amendments, there won't be time to reach the crucial Section 9, dealing with the threat of suicide.

Meanwhile, a perinatal psychiatrist has described proposals by Minister of State Lucinda Creighton for treatments for pregnant women who are suicidal as “quite extraordinary."

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Dr Anthony McCarthy said he was amazed at the level of detail proposed by Ms Creighton and other Oireachtas members given that they had no background in psychiatry.

He said the proposals were "unrealistic".

Ms Creighton has tabled a series of amendments to the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill for pregnant women with suicidal ideation in place of Section 9.

She has proposed speedy assessments for pregnant women who are suicidal, twice-weekly care team meetings with a series of medical experts and a form of treatment called dialectic behaviour therapy.

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Dr McCarthy said that proposal for rapid and regular care-team meetings was not practical, as there was insufficient resources to provide this service.

He also described dialectic behaviour therapy as a form of therapy for people with emotionally behaviour disorder.

He said this proposal seemed to suggest that women who were pregnant and suicidal were emotionally unstable.

Responding on RTÉ’s Today with Pat Kenny, Ms Creighton said she would feel "much happier" about the bill if it included "clear pathways" for providing psychiatric care for pregnant women who were suicidal.

However, she declined to say whether she would vote for the bill if these safeguards were included in the legislation.

Ms Creighton said Dr McCarthy's comments were of concern to her, as it suggested that a shortage of resources would mean that pregnant women who were suicidal would not have access to adequate counselling.

As a result, the option of having a termination would not be a matter of "last resort".

She said she would feel more comfortable about the Government's plan if there was a "genuine attempt" to improve resources, but she could not say whether this would convince her to ultimately support the bill.

Asked whether she should vote along party lines along with others in Fine Gael who were supporting the Government's legislative change, she described this as akin to accepting "bad law and a breach of principle".

No fundamental changes to bill

Tanáiste Eamon Gilmore has said that amendments discussed by Cabinet will not involve any fundamental or substantial change to the bill.

Mr Gilmore said he was aware of the nature of amendments put down by some TDs.

He said the amendments had been the subject of discussion by Minister for Health James Reilly and Minister of State Alex White over a number of days.

Mr Gilmore also said that the issue of suicidal ideation was a cornerstone of the legislation and there will not be any change to that.

He added it would be regrettable if any member of the Government parties votes against the legislation.

When asked about the Fine Gael policy that those who vote against the bill may not be able to run in the next general election, he said it was a matter for Fine Gael and every party has its own rules and he respects that.

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