Medics pursue 'any chance of preserving the life of the baby'


Maternity masters:Provision of safe, legal abortion to protect the life of the mother would not lead to the “intentional killing of babies in the womb”, the master of the National Maternity Hospital in Holles Street, has said.

Rhona Mahony refuted assertions made by anti-abortion campaigners that legislating for the X case would result in the direct and intentional killing of unborn children.

Late terminations

Dr Mahony was responding to a question from Fine Gael TD Terence Flanagan, who asked whether it would be acceptable to carry out a termination of a pregnancy at 24 weeks.

“Please don’t talk about the ridiculous concept of terminating pregnancies at 24 to 30 weeks,” she said.

Where a termination was necessary to save the mother’s life, the foetus would be delivered rather than killed in the womb, she said. “Where there is any chance of preserving the life of the baby we will do so . . . What we are about today is saving women’s lives, not about killing .”

Master of the Rotunda Hospital, Sam Coulter-Smith said: “In most situations it is possible to deliver the foetus rather than kill the unborn.”

In their statement last month, the four Catholic Archbishops of Ireland said Government plans to legislate for the Supreme Court ruling in the X case would “pave the way for the direct and intentional killing of unborn children”.

The Pro-Life campaign has said such legislation would lead to the “targeting of unborn in the womb”.

Saving lives

Dr Coulter-Smith said there had been six cases last year at the Rotunda where pregnancies were terminated to save the mothers’ lives.

Both he and Dr Mahony said they had never withheld such treatment from mothers where their lives were at risk, though both called for legislation to clarify when abortion was legal.

“I still contend that I need further clarity, that I am protected under law,” said Dr Mahony, pointing out that the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act, which criminalises carrying out abortion, still stands.

Dr Coulter-Smith said to his knowledge no woman had died in an Irish hospital due to being refused a termination, but added it was impossible to know whether or not women might have died if they had not been able to access abortion abroad.