Bill proposes pain relief for foetus during late-term abortions

Carol Nolan introduces Bill which was co-sponsored by 10 other TDs in Dáil

A new Bill has been launched by a group of 11 TDs who are proposing that a foetus be given pain relief during late-term abortions.

The Foetal Pain Relief Bill 2021 was introduced by Independent TD Carol Nolan and is co-sponsored by 10 other TDs.

Speaking in the Dáil when introducing the Bill, Ms Nolan said that it addresses the issue of pain in the context of surgical abortion procedures.

“Medical science has known for some time that unborn babies can experience pain from 20 weeks’ gestation. However, an increasing body of scientific research from about 2007 onwards has suggested that the brain and nervous system develop at a rate which means that unborn babies may feel pain as early as 13 weeks. The latest such study was published just last year in the Journal of Medical Ethics,” she said.


When the current abortion law was progressing through the Dáil in 2018, a number of TDs submitted similar amendments.

Explaining why they could not be included in the legislation at the time, the former minister for health Simon Harris said that "the purpose of this legislation is not to regulate or dictate the practice of obstetrics. That is not what we do in this House. There is a very thin line that we should not cross where we move from being policy makers to being doctors. We have to be very conscious of that."

“Medical practitioners are bound through professional regulatory mechanisms to operate in accordance with best medical practice. It is simply not appropriate to include detailed medical treatment, compulsory care pathways or treatment plans in legislation.”

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times