Creighton defends abortion amendment proposals

Perinatal psychiatrist describes suggestions by Minister of State as ‘quite extraordinary’

Minister of State Lucinda Creighton’s suggestions have been described as ‘impractical and unrealistic’. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

Minister of State Lucinda Creighton has defended her proposed amendments of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill after a perinatal psychiatrist rejected them as impractical and unrealistic.

Dr Anthony McCarthy of Holles Street maternity hospital described Ms Creighton’s proposed amendments as “extraordinary”.

Ms Creighton has suggested changes to provide for a speedy assessment of whether a woman was suicidal; dialectical behaviour therapy; a twice-a-week evaluation; and a care team meeting once every two weeks to assess the patient’s stability.

Dr Anthony McCarthy described Minister of State Lucinda Creighton’s proposed amendments to the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill as “extraordinary”. Photograph: Eric Luke

Dr McCarthy said it was “totally impractical” to expect psychiatrists to complete assessments within two hours and for social workers to complete a psychosocial assessment within 24 hours, especially as “some emergency departments in the country do not have a liaison psychiatrist – full stop”.


The idea of having all these available psychiatrists and social workers across the country was “fantastic” and would be a great help to all patients, not just the suicidal, but was “totally unrealistic”, he said.

The Dáil will vote on the Bill tomorrow.

Dr McCarthy said he was amazed at the number of politicians and obstetricians who seemed to now hold vast understanding of suicide, pregnancy and the risks “as if they understand these issues and can then come up with proposals”.

Dr McCarthy also said he was surprised Ms Creighton had suggested the introduction of dialectical behaviour therapy into legislation when “most people have never heard of it”.

He said the suggestion of such a therapy shows misogyny and society’s “views of women” to be that of emotional instability because dialectical behaviour therapy was specific for those with an emotionally unstable personality disorder.

Dr McCarthy believes this suggests these women “are just unstable, not ill” and their emotions simply need to be “stabilised”.

In addition, Dr McCarthy believes these women will have no privacy as their issues will be discussed with a psychiatrist, obstetrician, general practitioner, social worker and their family.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Dr McCarthy said he fully supported alternative treatments for those who are suicidal during pregnancy, as long as it was "not a compulsory alternative".

He added that patients come to him because they do not want an abortion and they want help, whereas suicidal women who want an abortion “will just go to the UK”.

As a consequence, Dr McCarthy believes the proposed legislation will apply only to a minority but within that small number he believes the legislation is “reasonable”.

Ms Creighton said Dr Anthony McCarthy’s comments were a concern to her as he said appropriate services for suicidal women are not broadly available, which would lead to the last resort becoming the first resort.

Ms Creighton said she would feel more reassured if the suicidal clause was removed from the bill, likening it to non-medical treatment for cancer.

“Can you imagine if we as legislators were trying to prescribe through legislation treatment for cancer care and we basically decided to introduce a treatment that didn’t have any substance or any grounding in medical evidence, that the vast majority of oncologists around the country didn’t support unworkable and we just ploughed ahead and put it on the statute book anyway?” she said.

Ms Creighton did not say whether she would vote for the bill or not.

Also speaking on RTÉ radio today, Dublin councillor Paddy McCartan said he hopes Ms Creighton votes alongside her party to pass the bill.

“I had hoped that in time Lucinda would become a cabinet minister, become leader of this party and with all that that would entail become the first female Taoiseach and I’ve said that to her and it’s a great personal disappointment to me,” he said.