26 terminations under Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill

Three carried out when mother’s life deemed at risk due to suicidal ideation

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has confirmed 26 terminations were carried out under the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act last year.

Mr Varadkar laid a report from the Health Service Executive before the Oireachtas detailing the number of terminations under the 2013 Act from January 1st to December 31st, 2014.

Three terminations were carried out based on the risk to the life of the mother by suicide, 14 due to the risk from physical illness and nine based on an emergency situation from physical illness.

Mr Varadkar said the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act was working for patients and doctors.


“We are satisfied that the legislation in working in the way it was intended to,” he said. “I know the figure of 26 may seem high but bear in mind it is three on the grounds of suicide and 23 on the grounds of physical illness where there is a threat to the life of the mother.

“If you read back on the evidence given by obstetricians to the Joint Oireachtas committee, the figures they used were in the region of 20 or 30 cases a year where a termination is necessary to protect the life of the mother.”

The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013 was enacted on July 30th, 2013 and commenced on January 1st, 2014. It allows for a termination of pregnancy where there is a real and substantial risk to a woman’s life from a physical illness, when there is an immediate risk to the life of the woman arising from a physical illness or when there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the woman arising from suicide intent.

In order for a termination to take place, two medical practitioners will have to examine the woman and jointly certify that the risk to her life can only be averted by carrying out the procedure.

The HSE’s report also shows that one application for review was made to the executive and the Review Committee found this application did not meet the criteria for a termination of pregnancy under the Act.

Mr Varadkar said this was a personal and private matter for the women concerned and her doctors. He said it was not for politicians or other third parties to be investigating or getting involved in.

The Act requires that the Minister for Health be notified of each termination of pregnancy no later than 28 days after it has taken place, without disclosing the name of the woman.

Reacting to the figures, the Pro Life Campaign said that the loss of even one life from abortion is an “immense human tragedy”.

Its deputy chairwoman, Cora Sherlock said: “It is a very sad fact that the Government’s legislation in 2013 is directly responsible for the loss of life in the cases where three babies had their lives ended under the ‘threat of suicide’ ground for abortion.

“It is difficult to determine from the information made available today whether the deaths of the other 23 babies under the new Act resulted from induced abortion that directly targeted their lives or whether some or all of them resulted from necessary medical interventions in pregnancy to save the life of the mother where every reasonable effort was also made to save the life of the unborn child.”