Reilly denies plan for six doctors to review abortion requests

Plan for suicidal women ’sick joke’ and ’abusive’, perinatal psychiatrist says

Minister for Health Dr James Reilly has said that it is “never going to be the case” that six consultants will review pregnant women who are suicidal and wants an abortion. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

Minister for Health Dr James Reilly has said that it is “never going to be the case” that six consultants will review pregnant women who are suicidal and wants an abortion. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

Mon, Apr 22, 2013, 13:18

Minister for Health Dr James Reilly has said that it is “never going to be the case” that six consultants will review pregnant women who are suicidal and wants an abortion.

He said it was not the case now and never will be the case that a distressed womam will be subjected to an interview by six consultants “either simultaneously or individually”

He was speaking after a perinatal psychiatrist said assembling six doctors to assess a pregnant woman’s request for abortion was a “sick joke” and would be “abusive”.

Reports suggesting a new law on abortion could require two obstetricians and four psychiatrists, one of whom must be a perinatal psychiatrist, to assess the suicidal risk of pregnant women was “completely unworkable”, said Dr Anthony McCarthy of Holles Street maternity hospital.

However Dr Reilly said “some people may have formed the wrong impression”. “The heads of the bill are not finalised. They are still in process. It would not be appropriate for me to discuss what is in them until they have been discussed at the appropriate level which is cabinet,” he told reporters this morning.

Dr Reilly said after he brings the heads of the bill to Government, they will go to the Oireachtas committee on health where the heads can be discussed before the bill is finally drafted. “Obviously the drafting of that bill will be very much informed by what happens at the Oireachtas Committee,” he said.

Dr Reilly revealed it was his intention to bring it before the cabinet tomorrow. He anticipated that were would be disagreements about it at cabinet level, at the Oireachtas committee and even after the bill is drafted.

“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 explained.

“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.”

Earlier today Tánaiste Éamon Gilmore has said the timetable for the introduction of abortion legislation is on-track, but it is important that the content of the legislation is right.

Speaking in Luxembourg this morning, where he is chairing a meeting of EU ministers, the Tanaiste 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. 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.”

His comments come in the wake of reports that deep divisions between the coalition partners on how to delay the suicide aspect of the law, could delay tomorrow’s publication of draft abortion legislation.

High-level talks took place over the weekend involving the offices of Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Mr Gilmore, as well as Minister for Health James Reilly, in an effort to find a solution that would accommodate the dramatically different viewpoints of the Labour Party and sections of Fine Gael on the inclusion of a suicide threat as a ground for a legal termination.