Psychiatrist says abortion law can be improved by amendment

HSE to publish terms of reference for review into care of woman who sought termination

The terms of reference for the report into the treatment of the woman who sought an abortion are to be published today.

The terms of reference for the report into the treatment of the woman who sought an abortion are to be published today.

Wed, Aug 20, 2014, 11:59

Consultant psychiatrist and former TD Dr Moosajee Bhamjee has warned that another controversial abortion case could happen at any time and has called on the Government to amend the existing legislation.

He said a fresh referendum on abortion was not a good idea. Dr Bhamjee works in private practice in Ennis and Galway having retired from the HSE in 2011.

He served one term as a Labour deputy for Clare in the 1990s.

Inside Politics podcast: Abortion in Ireland

“This could happen again next month, next week,” he said, referring to the case of the young woman who was refused an abortion and later had her pregnancy delivered by Caesarian section.

He said the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act could be improved through amendments.

“I think the legislation could be amended without going to a referendum. Once we go to a referendum you get so many multiple views that you end up with a mess,” he said.

“The Government should look at amending the legislation rather than looking at going to a referendum. It causes too much controversy and conflict within society.”

Earlier Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said he did not believe there was an appetite for a further referendum to remove the 8th amendment to the Constitution in relation to abortion.

Concerns for the psychological welfare of the young woman at the centre of the latest abortion controversy were brought to the HSE at the end of May, two months earlier than has been reported, it is understood.

The young woman, who was 16 weeks pregnant at the time, attempted to take her own life at that point, she has said.

Her pregnancy was delivered by Caesarean section earlier this month, at 25 weeks gestation. She was suicidal and says she had been refused a termination under the new abortion legislation.

Speaking today, the Minister said he agreed with Minister for Health Leo Varadkar’s direction to the HSE to seek a full report “to assemble all of the facts” in relation to the particular case.

He said he understood the HSE would have a report “sometime in September”.

The terms of reference for the review are expected to be published today.

“I believe time to be of the essence here. It’s absolutely essential that we have this report on the fact as quickly as possible. I see no reason why we can’t have this in a couple of weeks and I do believe it’s essential that the cabinet is fully briefed by Minister [for Health Leo] Varadkar in September.”

Mr Flanagan said there seemed to be “a conflict as to the engagement of members of the medical profession with the level of treatment” and with the timelines in the case.

“I believe before we do anything it’s important that the facts be assembled and the facts be disclosed.”

Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke programme, Mr Flanagan was asked about the possibility that the report might suggest that the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act should be revisited in some way.

“Well, there is a suggestion that the Act isn’t working. However, I think before we can be conclusive on that or before we can form an opinion on that, we need to be apprised fully of the facts and the circumstances,” he said.