Sharp exchanges between Crown and Casey at debate
There were sharp exchanges between Senator John Crown and psychiatrist Patricia Casey on the implications of introducing abortion legislation.
Prof Casey, professor of psychiatry in UCD and consultant psychiatrist at the Mater hospital, Dublin, said that while legislation might not open the floodgates immediately, there would certainly be widespread abortion within a short time. “What will happen is that GPs, in good faith, will send pregnant women to the doctors to be assessed to see if they come within the X criteria,” she added.
“And the system will be described as cumbersome and, in due course, it will be dismantled and I think there will be a gradual opening up as has happened in every other country.”
Mr Crown, a consultant in St Vincent’s hospital, Dublin, said Prof Casey had alluded to the argument that there might be a “floodgates phenomenon” and an abuse of the suicidal ideation clause in any abortion legislation.
‘Remit as psychiatrist’
“I would, with great respect, say this is entirely without your professional competence,” he added. “This is not something you should be discussing; this is not something which is within your remit as a psychiatrist.’’ Mr Crown said he noted Prof Casey was “an affiliate of an organisation which, I believe, also has a non-professional, entirely legitimate, argument to advance”.
Committee chairman Fine Gael TD Jerry Buttimer intervened to say Prof Casey was present as an eminent psychiatrist. Prof Casey replied that as regards the “floodgates phenomenon”, she believed there would be a gradual attempt to extend the law. “I think there will be widespread abortion in a short period.”
Earlier, Prof Casey said women did express suicidal thoughts and sometimes engaged in self-harm in pregnancy, not primarily because of the pregnancy but because of interpersonal problems.
Treatment for suicidality
“In my clinical practice, as a consultant psychiatrist since 1985, I have never seen a pregnant woman for whom an abortion was the only, or last resort, treatment for suicidality.”
Veronica O’Keane, professor of psychiatry at TCD and a consultant psychiatrist in Tallaght Hospital, Dublin, said primary legislation was required because of the need for legal certainty.
“We also require the flexibility that regulation would bring, in order to adapt to unforeseen situations that may arise.”
Dr Anthony McCarthy, consultant perinatal psychiatrist at the National Maternity Hospital, Dublin, said the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland had no agreed formal position on the proposed legislation. He added that suicidal ideation in pregnancy was much more common than completed suicide and was a complex issue.