Fine Gael TD O’Mahony to back abortion Bill

Mayo TD had voiced serious concerns about the Government’s abortion legislation

Fine Gael TD Johun O’Mahony. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Fine Gael TD Johun O’Mahony. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Wed, Jul 10, 2013, 17:05

One of the Fine Gael TDs with serious concerns about the Government’s abortion legislation has announced this afternoon that he will be supporting it.

Mayo TD John O’Mahony said that having the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill “careful and detailed consideration” in recent months he had decided to back the legislation.

It now appears likely that Minister of State Lucinda Creighton will be the only Fine Gael TD to join the four already committed to opposing the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill when the issue comes to a vote in the Dail tonight.

Mr O’Mahony said he had decided to back the bill on the basis that it “seeks to clarify and regulate existing constitutional rights and not to create any new right.”

He added that his understanding was that the Bill would introduce regulation of and safeguards to an area of law where none currently exist.

“It is well known that an aspect of this proposed legislation about which I have serious concerns is the provision relating to the risk to the life of a pregnant woman arising from suicide. Having examined this issue in great detail and having obtained clarification from the Attorney General, I understand that this provision only arises because the connected constitutional right already exists, as has been confirmed by the Supreme Court.

“Accordingly, notwithstanding my concerns on the principle of this issue, I accept that it is not legally feasible to remove this provision from the Bill as to do so, would leave a constitutional right still in existence but unregulated.”

Mr O’Mahony added that having examined and discussed the provisions of the Bill in detail, he believed that, in circumstances where this constitutional right exists, the scheme of regulation proposed by the Bill provided a higher standard of protection to the unborn than the absence of this regulation.

“The Bill acknowledges that the risk of suicide is a subjective area that requires a more rigorous process of assessment, involving numerous medical practitioners. It has recently been reported that since 1992, six children who were in State care were assisted in travelling abroad for terminations following assessment by one psychiatrist. While we do not know the full details of each of these cases, it is very possible that the more rigorous process of assessment provided for in this Bill would have resulted in different outcomes in those cases.”

He said that the Bill would provide clarity to doctors about when and how they can intervene in situations where there is a real and substantial risk to a woman’s life during pregnancy, whether arising from suicide or otherwise.

“It will create a rigorous assessment and certification process which seeks to ensure that a pregnancy can only be ended if it is the only intervention that will save the pregnant woman’s life. The Bill also expressly upholds the obligation on the medical profession to preserve the lives of the pregnant woman and her unborn baby where possible.

“I welcome the Minister’s report stage amendments which reiterate this obligation expressly in the Bill. In practice, this will mean that in making decisions, doctors will be required to consider all possible alternative treatments to save the life of the pregnant woman.

“In conclusion, I am satisfied that this Bill will create a rigorous and restrictive regulation of existing legal rights and that that the safeguards therein are adequate to prevent abuse of its provision.”