Reaction to proposals in Protection of Maternal Life Bill 2013

The Government has announced the heads of the Protection of Life in Pregnancy Bill were agreed after a lengthy Cabinet meeting.

They allow for terminations when there is a real and substantial threat to the life of the mother, including the threat of suicide.

The draft bill states that terminations must be carried out in public obstetric units, except in emergencies, when a single medical practitioner can approve an abortion.

In the case of a risk of loss of life from physical illness, two doctors must certify that there is a real and substantial risk to the mother's life.

In the case of a risk of suicide, three doctors must jointly sanction an abortion - an obstetrician and a psychiatrist from the hospital involved, and another psychiatrist.

If a woman is refused an abortion, she can appeal to a committee, which must meet within seven days of her request, and report within another seven days.

There is a conscientious objection clause for doctors, nurses and midwives, and anyone convicted of performing an illegal abortion, including the pregnant woman, could face up to 14 years in prison, or an unlimited fine.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said that the Protection of Life in Pregnancy Bill will not change Ireland's law on abortion.


Yesterday, prior to the Heads of Bill being announced, The Anglo-Celt asked all five of the Cavan-Monaghan Tds: Would you agree with legal abortion in instances where a woman threatens suicide?


Sean Conlan FG

“There is a difference between risk of suicide and threat of suicide. Threat of suicide in the case of pregnant woman is where she presents and threatens suicide and is evaluated, and you can legislate on the basis of threat.

Risk of suicide is where you legislate based upon the objectiviable risk as defined by a medical professional, so that's a different issue. Risk of suicide can be assessed by doctors. You can have someone who is at high risk of suicide but does not threaten suicide, likewise you can have someone who threatens suicide but is of low risk.

In relation to the question I would have great difficulty with that unless it is very restrictive, otherwise I would be very wary. There can only be, and its my belief, a termination within the confines of the constitution. The constitution is very clear on what is allowed and what's not and no further. That's the right of life of both mother and child must be protected, and only allow for termination where the life of the mother is in real and substantial risk.”


Joe O'Reilly FG

“I'll give the same answer as I gave to every other newspaper. I'm not prepared to comment on the issue until I see the legislation before me. I expect we should have the legislation at tomorrows (Wednesday) Parliamentary meeting. In due course I will be very happy to answer any and all questions on the matter”.

Asked whether he was supportive of an open vote or whether he agreed with the possibility of a party imposed voting pattern by the Whip, Deputy Reilly replied that he had “no view” on the subject, “no comment”.


Heather Humphreys FG

“I would agree with it in the circumstances that it is definitely a real possibility of suicide, in other words that it can be diagnosed that the pregnant mother is definitely suicidal. In very limited circumstances then yes, I would agree with it, but I want to make this very clear, I am not advocating abortion in demand in any way.”

Asked whether she advocates a free vote among TD's within the government party Deputy Humphreys said, “no, that's part of being in a party. My job as part of that is to raise concerns within the party and from my constituents. When you're in a political party not everything you're going to agree with but you reach a consensus point and move forward.”

Deputy Humphreys added its her intention, once legislation is brought before government members, that its her intention to meet and speak with women's groups and interested parties throughout the constituency with a view to gauging local reaction on the subject.


Brendan Smith FF

“As outlined already, the Fianna Fail Party will give detailed consideration to the Government's proposals when published.

Suicidal ideation as a possible grounds for abortion is an issue of widespread concern as was evident in debates at the Fianna Fail Ard-Fheis at the weekend.

Within the Fianna Fail Parliamentary Party, of which I am Chairman, we will consider all aspects of the Government's proposals at the earliest opportunity and in the first instance I will be contributing to that debate. This is a very complex and difficult area.”


Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin SF

“Its not as simple as all that. Its all to do with the context of a woman's life at risk and the assessment of appropriately qualified consultants whatever way the legislation will provide.

Most certainly where a woman's life is real and immediate risk there is of course provision for the appropriately and professionally qualified people to make that assessment. Its not for me, not for any other TD irrespective of what party they are from to do so. We can only provide a legal clarity and support for the judgement of the professionals. As legislators, regardless of our personal beliefs, strong held beliefs I have no doubt in many a case, the fact of the matter is that legislators are obliged to provide for all potential situations which can present. Its not a simple yes or no, it could never be.

As Health Spokesperson I will have to deal with this, the eventualities, the potential situations that could and do present themselves all too sadly, and irrespective of how few the number might be, we all have a responsibility to be aware. The person, that woman involved could be your partner, your wife, your sister or your child and we need to be absolutely consignant of all of that, this is not black or white. For strongly held views, and I've had might throughout my life, I know I must evaluate this in a removed capacity. I can't only legislate for those who share my own perspective on this issue, I have to legislate for everyone. That's why I am leaving an open mind on this until the Government brings forward the legislation. I would expect in line with what has been signalled, that as Health Spokesperson I would be commending its acceptance to my party and my colleagues.

We however will be going into a series of hearings, with health professionals and others so my mind is not closed on it. For legislators to have closed minds at this point in time whether they will vote or not vote, I think is completely wrong.”


Bishop of the Diocese of Kilmore, Dr Leo O'Reilly

Bishop of the Diocese of Kilmore Dr Leo O'Reilly had not seen the heads of the Bill but he said at the time that he looked forward to responding when he does.

“Developments in recent months have been very significant in relation to legislating for abortion.

The Medical Community, as represented by the Irish Medical Organisation, voted overwhelmingly against the introduction of abortion. Also, the evidence of the medical profession given at the Oireachtas hearings has made it quite clear that there is no justification for legislating for abortion as a remedy for suicidality.

It now appears that the agenda of some politicians is to use such a provision as a loophole to expand the availability of abortion as has happened in other jurisdictions.

Next Saturday 4 May will see a national Vigil of Prayer for Mothers and their Unborn Babies taking place at Our Lady’s Shrine in Knock, Co Mayo. The theme of this Vigil will be ’Choose Life: We Cherish Them Both’ and it is supported by the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference. This special liturgical event will begin at 1:00pm with a Rosary Procession and will conclude with Mass in the Basilica at 3.00pm. The main celebrant for the Mass will be Cardinal Seán Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, and the homilist will be Bishop Brendan Leahy, Bishop of Limerick. A blessing for expectant mothers who are present will be given during the Mass.

Parishioners from around the country have been invited to attend the Rosary and Mass and I have extended that invitation to the people of the diocese of Kilmore. The Vigil is an opportunity for all people of faith and goodwill to join in prayer for mothers and unborn babies, that they will continue to be protected cherished and safeguarded from all harm, here in Ireland.”