A vote on an amendment put forward by anti-abortion Senators centered on grounds for termination after viability has been defeated in the Seanad.

Thirty Senators voted against the amendment put forward by the Independent Senators' Rónán Mullen and Brian Ó Domhnaill, and Senator Paul Coughlan of Fine Gael.

Six voted in favour of the motion, which Mr Mullen said would insert a requirement that the child is pre-viable for the purposes of any act or procedure that is intended to end his or her life.

He said it was reckless to allow the section to stand without any protection in the post-viability situation.

The Minister for Health said that following discussion in the Dáil, he revised the explanatory memorandum to the bill that "extraordinary life saving measures are measures that go beyond those routinely used in neo-natal practice, to support the life of a premature infant".

Simon Harris said in his view, the explanatory memorandum answered Mr Mullen's request.

The minister said a baby will be treated the same as premature babies and obstetricians are in the business of saving lives.

Mr Mullen said "the only thing to go on" from the minister was that "doctors are always good and will always try to save life". 

However, the Independent Senator said the legislation contradicted that in its intention to end life.

He questioned where abortion is sought in Ireland on a "sudden emerging mental health ground" and if the baby is post viable, if there is a duty on the doctor to save the child's life.

"You are saying babies lives will be saved in the post-viability situation and that's a huge issue of credibility that needs to be addressed", he said.

Mr Harris said it was an emergency provision where there is an immediate risk to the life or a risk to the health of the woman.

He said doctors deliver babies and save lives but he pointed out that the section in question was where there was an immediate risk.

Mr Harris said the amendment put forward by Senators Mullen, Ó Domhnaill and Coughlan would lead to more restrictive legislation than the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill 2013.

The amendment in question was tabled under Section Eight of the Bill which puts arrangements in place to cover situations where a review committee has been convened under the Act of 2013 and is ongoing at the time the Bill comes into effect.

It also obliges the HSE to prepare and submit a final report on reviews to the Minister not later than six months after the commencement date of the legislation.

That section passed by 30 votes to 6.


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Earlier, Mr Harris told the Seanad that he agreed with the Taoiseach over the implementation of abortion services in January.

Independent Senator David Norris asked Mr Harris if he was aware of what the Taoiseach said at lunchtime, that the 1 January window may not be fully accomplished.

Mr Harris said he completely agreed with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar when he pointed out that "it takes time for services to embed and evolve and be fully implemented".

He added that the Taoiseach was "entirely correct" when he said if the Houses of the Oireachtas pass the legislation and if the President of Ireland signs the legislation into law, services will be available in January.

Mr Harris told Senators he met with "many stakeholders" this morning, who are preparing abortion services for January and he was very happy to see the level of preparedness people have put in - in terms of websites, information campaigns and helplines.

He said it would ensure that the 372 women in Ireland seeking terminations in January, will be supported in their own country with care and compassion.

Meanwhile, Senator Lynn Ruane has said that the "constant mention" of the introduction of abortion services next month feels like it is an effort to silence Senators.

Ms Ruane, who is pro-choice, said the Seanad should not be operating under a threat of services not operating next month.

She said the hundreds of thousands of people who voted to repeal the Eighth Amendment did not vote on the basis of the heads of the bill.

The Independent Senator said the only thing that will delay the legislation is if amendments are won in the Seanad, which she said would be taken out by the Government in the Dáil.

There was laughter when Mr Mullen said he agreed with Ms Ruane.

He said the legislation needed to be approached with integrity having regard to the position that people hold on the issue.

"Anything that suggests elements of rushed, that we'll somehow be letting down the country by teasing things through properly would be very regrettable", he said.

Additional reporting Mícheál Lehane