Archbishop defends record on pregnancy

Mon, Nov 19, 2012, 00:00

Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has expressed his distress at some of the reaction to the death of Savita Halappanavar. The archbishop challenged assertions that Ireland was not a safe country in which to be pregnant. “The facts show us we have in fact one of the lowest levels of maternal mortality in the world, which means that whatever practices we have are producing the results that we should respect,” he said.

The fact that Ireland had few maternal deaths showed that where conflicts arose over treatment options they have been resolved successfully, he added.

Minister for Health James Reilly said yesterday that a Government decision on providing clarity on abortion was unlikely before the new year.

Dr Reilly said he would be bringing the expert groups report on abortion to the Cabinet on Tuesday week but that consultation would be needed before a decision was reached.

Ms Halappanavar’s family would have input into the terms of reference for the inquiry into her death, he said.

The draft terms for an internal inquiry to be conducted by Galway University Hospital into the death have been sent to Ms Halappanavar’s husband, Praveen. Terms of reference for a separate HSE inquiry had not been finalised last night.

Ms Halappanavar (31) died at the hospital a week after she had presented miscarrying her 17-week pregnancy. She died of septicaemia. Her husband has said she repeatedly requested a termination over a three-day period but this had been refused on the grounds that Ireland was a “Catholic country” and a foetal heartbeat was still present.

The group’s report sets out several legal options for the Coalition, including the drawing up of primary legislation or the attachment of secondary legislation including new guidelines to existing legislation.

The report says some hospitals could be pre-selected for carrying out abortions in limited circumstances, the Sunday Business Post reported. Another option is to have two senior doctors sign off on an abortion. In cases where a woman claims to be suicidal, a psychiatrist would carry out an assessment.

A Sinn Féin motion calling on the Government to legislate for the X case is to be debated tomorrow. The Coalition is expected to table a counter-motion.