Bill provides for a termination on three grounds
Three specialist doctors must certify risk to life in case of suicide
Minister for Health Dr James Reilly told the Fine Gael parliamentary party on Wednesday that he was open to proposals of amendments to the Bill in certain places
The Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill sets out the parameters for doctors to terminate a pregnancy if they deem that this is the only action that will save the life of the pregnant woman.
Published shortly after midnight yesterday, the 18-page Bill fleshes out the proposals in the heads of the draft law which were agreed in April by the Coalition.
Some new elements are added, including powers for the Minister for Health to suspend services under the law, but the essential thrust of the legislation remains the same.
The Minister can direct the suspension of services under the law in a particular hospital on grounds of a serious risk that there is a failure of the institution to comply with law.
The Minister can ask the Health Information and Quality Authority to conduct an investigation, and can direct the suspension while Hiqa investigates. The suspension can be revoked if the Minister is satisfied there is no serious risk.
In another change, the Minister must be informed with necessary information about terminations that occur. The Minister for Health will be obliged under the law to prepare an annual report by June 30th each year on the notifications received and publish it as soon as practicable “in such form and manner as he or she thinks appropriate”.
Although mooted provisions for a direct report to the Oireachtas on the operation of the law were dropped from the final text, Minister for Health Dr James Reilly told the Fine Gael parliamentary party on Wednesday that he was open to proposals of amendments to the Bill on that front.
In a further change, the Bill narrows the scope of the offence for breaching the law. The Bill says “it shall be an offence to intentionally destroy unborn human life”, removing an earlier provision in which it would be an offence to carry out an act intended to destroy unborn life.
Any guilty person would be liable on indictment to a fine or imprisonment for a maximum of 14 years.
For the avoidance of doubt, the Bill declares that the offence shall not apply to a medical practitioner who carries out a medical procedure within the law.
The Bill provides for a termination of pregnancy on three grounds: risk of loss of life to the woman due to physical illness during an emergency; risk of the woman dying due to physical illness; and risk of dying by suicide.
The draft law gives a medical practitioner the power to carry out a termination after deciding in good faith there is an immediate risk of loss to the woman’s life from physical illness.
The practitioner in question must form a reasonable opinion that the procedure is immediately necessary to save the mother’s life.