‘No question’ of late terminations, says hospital master

Dr Mahony says Bill requires doctors to do everything they can to save a baby’s life

Dr Rhona Mahony: the master of the National Maternity Hospital said there was “no question” of the Government’s proposed legislation on abortion allowing late terminations. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Dr Rhona Mahony: the master of the National Maternity Hospital said there was “no question” of the Government’s proposed legislation on abortion allowing late terminations. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Thu, May 2, 2013, 09:16


There is “no question” of the Government’s proposed legislation on abortion allowing late terminations, according to the master of the National Maternity Hospital, Dr Rhona Mahony.

Dr Mahony said the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill requires doctors to do everything they can to save a baby’s life. Foetuses born at 23 weeks now had a significant survival rate, she pointed out.

Welcoming the legislation, she nonetheless predicted that women would continue to travel in large numbers to England for abortions, despite the greater clarity it provided.

Describing the Bill as “a step forward” which was good for women, she said it provided for a process which gave greater protection to obstetricians dealing with difficult pregnancies. The proposals for reviewing and appealing decisions on terminations were workable, she said.

“Up to now, we have been interpreting the Constitution. Now there will be clear law underpinned by a process that women can avail of when seeking a termination.”

The Bill does not deal with cases where women seek a termination because of rape or terminal foetal conditions, she pointed out, adding: “I think these conversations are worth having in society”.

The Institute of Obstetricians and the College of Psychiatrists both said they would review the Bill carefully and make their views known to the legislature at an appropriate time.

Prof Veronica O’Keane, of Trinity College Dublin and a consultant psychiatrist with Tallaght Hospital, said she was “pleased that we had crossed the line from abstract moral arguments to providing a service for women whose lives are endangered by suicide because of an unwanted pregnancy”.

Prof O’Keane said that it was her reading of the heads of the Bill that a woman presenting in this situation would not have to be interviewed by a panel of medical practitioners but would be assessed individually, a prospect which she said would be onerous on someone who found themselves in this situation.

Prof Patricia Casey, a professor of psychiatry in University College Dublin, said the provision on suicide “compromised the profession” of psychiatry.