'Dismissive' view of suicide risk criticised
Dáil report: Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald has rejected suggestions that women might use the threat of suicide as a way of securing an abortion.
She said it made no sense to brand women as “duplicitous and untrustworthy, likely to claim suicidal thoughts and pull the wool over the eyes of the medical profession in an effort to seek the option of an abortion”.
Ms Fitzgerald added: “Since when has it become permissible to make such bald and dismissive statements about women and people presenting with serious mental health problems?”
Since when had it become permissible to resist the idea that pregnancy “might trigger or could exacerbate” existing mental health conditions.
“Let us not go there or attribute ruthless, uncaring duplicity to women we do not know and who in the distant future may have a crisis pregnancy,” she added.
Speaking during the resumed Dáil debate on abortion, she added the Government must make explicit the standards and regulations guiding the delivery of one of the best maternity services in the world.
“Let us face another reality for Irish women,” Ms Fitzgerald added. “As of this year, more than 4,000 women travel annually out of Ireland for terminations.”
She said they ranged in age from the very young – some 11 per cent were teenagers – to the 37 per cent aged 30 or older. These were ordinary Irish women who, for many different reasons, faced a pregnancy they believed they could not continue.
“Some have sought counselling or support before making the decision but many know that despite the support and promotion of counselling and related services, there is an underlying Irish code of ‘Don’t tell, just go’.”
She said members of the Dáil stood at yet another “infinitely painful point in a two-decade sequence of difficult and painful cases, Irish and European case law, reports, Green Papers, deliberations by an Oireachtas constitutional committee and periods of intense public debate”.
Minister of State for Health Kathleen Lynch said the House would now either legislate or legislate with regulations.
“Mark my words, however, there will be another incident, and we will have to return and confront this issue again,” she added. “What we are about to do is far too narrow.”
She asked when the State would allow women, in consultation with their medical teams, to make decisions for themselves.
Minister of State for Finance Brian Hayes said the failure of successive governments to act had put the lives of women at risk. “Too often, we only respond when a crisis develops,” he said. “This generation of legislators is now called upon to exercise its duty.”
He said “legal clarity and a full, proper legislative response to the issues contained in the X case ruling of more than 20 years ago” were required.