Minister for Health rules out six-doctor abortion interview

James Reilly says “wrong impression” formed

Minister for Health James Reilly:   “I want to reassure people that there will be no question of a woman in distress with suicidal ideation being put through the sort of interviewing process that we have heard about on the television and the radio.”

Minister for Health James Reilly: “I want to reassure people that there will be no question of a woman in distress with suicidal ideation being put through the sort of interviewing process that we have heard about on the television and the radio.”

Tue, Apr 23, 2013, 05:00

Minister for Health James Reilly has insisted planned abortion legislation will not require pregnant women who are suicidal to be interviewed by six doctors.

Dr Reilly yesterday said “some people may have formed the wrong impression” about the Protection of Maternal Life Bill, which is due to be discussed at Cabinet level for the first time today.

He said it was “never going to be the case” that six doctors would be required to assess if a threat of suicide by a pregnant woman represented a real and substantial risk to her life.

Dr Reilly said the aim of the proposed legislation was to bring clarity to the situation. “I want to reassure people that there will be no question of a woman in distress with suicidal ideation being put through the sort of interviewing process that we have heard about on the television and the radio,” he said.

“At the heart of this is a need for legislation to clarify the situation for women who have to use the service and for doctors who have to provide it.”

‘Deeply concerned’
Labour TD Anne Ferris welcomed what she described as the clarification from Dr Reilly. “I was deeply concerned at reports from the weekend papers that suggested that pregnant women who feel suicidal would have to face six doctors in order to access an abortion,” Ms Ferris said.

She said she would find it very difficult to support legislation unless it met not only “the letter of the law, when it comes to legislating for X, but also the spirit”.

Fine Gael TD Regina Doherty said the Government had made it clear that it would legislate for the X case.

She wanted to vote for the legislation but could not give any commitment until she had seen the heads of the Bill.

Senator Rónán Mullen accused the Government of “pretending that it’s taking the concerns of pro-life parliamentarians seriously”.

Timetable
Tánaiste Éamon Gilmore said the timetable for the introduction of abortion legislation was on track, but it was important that the content of the legislation was right.

Speaking in Luxembourg yesterday morning, where he was chairing a meeting of EU ministers, Mr Gilmore said the purpose of the legislation was to provide certainty to women and their medical practitioners.

“We have a timetable which is to have this legislation dealt with by the summer recess,” he said.

“We intend to keep to that deadline, but of course it’s important that we get the content of the legislation right, because the whole purpose of this legislation is to protect the lives of women, and to provide certainty to women who find themselves in this situation.”