Taoiseach says 'no new rights' will be contained in abortion law

Kenny rules out holding another referendum on abortion

 Taoiseach Enda Kenny who said today  law is not being changed on abortion. He said it was being clarified to deal strictly with the Constitution and with the X case and ‘will do so without bringing any new rights’. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Taoiseach Enda Kenny who said today law is not being changed on abortion. He said it was being clarified to deal strictly with the Constitution and with the X case and ‘will do so without bringing any new rights’. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Thu, Apr 25, 2013, 14:20

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said “no new rights” will be put in place when the Government legislates for limited abortion.

Speaking in Dundalk, Mr Kenny said the clarification that would be introduced would not change the law and would confirm existing rights ensuring that the lives of the mother and the unborn were given the equal status they had under the Constitution.

“The law is not being changed on abortion. The law is being codified and the law when clarified will deal strictly with the Constitution...will deal with the X case and will do so without bringing any new rights here,” he said.

“No woman in Ireland is entitled to by choice have an abortion unless there is a real and substantial risk to her life as distinct from her health...the law is not being changed. No new rights are being inserted here.”

Mr Kenny described drafts of legislation as “meaningless”, when asked if Minister for Health James Reilly had misled people about the content of the proposed law.

“In the preparation of any piece of legislation there are numerous drafts that are always prepared...all of these are meaningless until the Heads of the Bill are actually presented to Government by the sponsoring Minister and approved by Cabinet,” he said.

He also ruled out a new referendum. “I do not propose to have another referendum.”

A formal Government decision had been taken in December to deal with the ABC case.

Asked about dissent within his party about the Government’s stance, he said everyone would be entitled to have their “full say”.

Speaking after a meeting of the group of Ministers tasked with finding a solution to the stalemate on the draft abortion legislation this morning, Minister of State for Health Alex White said good progress had been made.

He said the legislation that will be brought in “will be quite restrictive in the context of the X case judgment”.

“It will still mean that we have a very restrictive regime in relation to regards the termination of a pregnancy in Ireland.”

“We want to put safeguards into that legislation but we don’t want to put in any kind of excessive or inordinate to the exercise by a woman of what is a constitutional right,” he said.

The ministerial group, which includes the Taoiseach, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, Minister for Health James Reilly, Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton, Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald, was convened for the first time on Tuesday after Cabinet discussions ended in disagreement over the detail of the proposed new law.

Mr White said the Government hoped to bring the Heads of the Bill to Cabinet next Tuesday and was hoping to introduce the legislation before the Dáil summer recess.

This morning consultant psychiatrists briefed Oireachtas members on their concerns about the proposed legislation.

One of the psychiatrists, Dr Bernie McCabe, said there is no medical evidence that would suggest an abortion is a treatment for suicide.

“As members of the medical profession, we have a duty to our patients to adopt best practice and an evidence-based approach to everything we do. The fact is that there is no evidence that abortion is a treatment for suicidality in pregnancy and may in fact be harmful to the woman,” she said.

“The Government must take this into account and reconsider its proposals.”

Meanwhile, some third of over 300 consultant psychiatrists contacted for a survey have supported a statement which outlines concerns with the Government’s proposals to legislate for abortion in limited circumstances.

Some 113 psychiatrists signed a statement rejecting the basis of abortion being a treatment for suicidal ideation in a woman.

The statement said: “We believe that legislation that includes a proposal that an abortion should form part of the treatment for suicidal ideation has no basis in the medical evidence available.”

The statement has also contended that it is inappropriate for the medical profession to be involved in the process.

The initiative came from four Consultant psychiatrists, Jackie Montwill, Martin Mahon, Bernie McCabe and Richelle Kirrane who wrote to all of their psychiatrist colleagues to ascertain if they supported the statement and wished to sign it. Some 14 of their colleagues opposed the statement. The four were among a group of psychiatrists opposed to the legislation who briefed parliamentarians in Leinster House this morning.

Dr Mc Cabe said: “I am not surprised that so many of our colleagues agree that the proposed legislation is flawed.

“As members of the medical profession, we have a duty to our patients to adopt best practice and an evidence-based approach to everything we do. The fact is that there is no evidence that abortion is a treatment for suicidality in pregnancy and may in fact be harmful to women.”