Doctors may use abortion over early delivery to avoid liability if baby disabled, Seanad told

“This legislation is an affront to human dignity. This legislation is an affront to any normal conception of human rights”

Senator Ronán Mullen: “The Taoiseach, the Ministers and the Government should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves for bringing this cruel and corrupt legislation before use”.  Photograph: Cyril Byrne / THE IRISH TIMES

Senator Ronán Mullen: “The Taoiseach, the Ministers and the Government should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves for bringing this cruel and corrupt legislation before use”. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / THE IRISH TIMES

Tue, Jul 16, 2013, 01:00


The Government’s abortion legislation may incentivise a doctor to provide an abortion instead of an early inducement to avoid liability where a baby is born with a disability, the Seanad has heard.

Ronan Mullen (Ind) said he could not see how anyone could reconcile the provisions of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill with the constitutional duty for laws to respect the equal right to life of the unborn.

He said the subjective “good faith” standard pervading the Bill’s provisions for medical assessments reflect the subjective grounds of suicidal ideation upon which the Bill provides for abortion.

Mr Mullen said the reasonable opinion required imposes no duty to ensure that where practicable a viable child should be delivered rather than aborted. He said: “It may in fact incentivise a medical practitioner to opt for an abortion instead of an early inducement so as to avoid questions of civil liability on foot of the disablement of a child.”

He said “this legislation is an affront to human dignity. This legislation is an affront to any normal conception of human rights. This legislation is an affront to the great medical tradition that cared for two patients up to now.”

He insisted it was Ireland’s “first ever abortion Bill. As such it is a defeat for the human right which Article 40.3.3 seeks to protect and a defeat for good evidence-based medicine”.


‘Cruel and corrupt legislation’
He said it was “no argument to say that those who might seek abortion under the suicide heading here might have gone to Britain anyway and that those children would not have lived anyway”.

Mr Mullen said “the Taoiseach, the Ministers and the Government should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves for bringing this cruel and corrupt legislation before us”.

“Suicidal ideation is as much an emergency as a heart attack,” said John Gilroy (Lab), a psychiatric nurse.

Mary White (FF) said it was the duty of legislators to uphold the Constitution. The Bill set out procedures and processes to guide doctors and protect them legally.

Susan O’Keeffe (Lab) said “the ruling of the Supreme Court is the law of the land and in a democracy we have to continue to recognise the authority of the courts in this matter”.

Seanad leader Maurice Cummins (FG) said the Bill would bring legal clarity where terminations would only be carried out when the risk to the woman’s life was fully assessed and certified by specialists as the only option available to avert that risk.