Monday, April 22, 2013

Tension between Irish Government parties on abortion issue

In response to a report that the ‘draft heads’ of a bill for the introduction of abortion in Ireland included assessment of requests for abortion by a panel of six doctors, Labour Minister Pat Rabbitte, along with colleague Jan O’Sullivan, said he would have serious concerns if draft legislation included a proposal that six doctors would be required to assess if a threat of suicide by a pregnant woman represented a real and substantial risk to her life.

Health Minister Dr James Reilly meanwhile is reported as saying “some people may have formed the wrong impression”. “The heads of the bill are not finalised. They are still in process. It would not be appropriate for me to discuss what is in them until they have been discussed at the appropriate level which is cabinet,” he told reporters this morning.

Dr Reilly said after he brings the heads of the bill to Government, they will go to the Oireachtas committee on health where the heads can be discussed before the bill is finally drafted. “Obviously the drafting of that bill will be very much informed by what happens at the Oireachtas Committee,” he said.

Dr Reilly revealed it was his intention to bring it before the cabinet tomorrow. He anticipated that were would be disagreements about it at cabinet level, at the Oireachtas committee and even after the bill is drafted.

“I want to reassure people that there will be no question of a woman in distress with suicidal ideation being put through the sort of interviewing process that we have heard about on the television and the radio,” he explained.

“At the heart of this is a need for legislation to clarify the situation for women who have to use the service and for doctors who have to provide it.”

The Irish Times reported Monday April 22nd that Labour leader and Tánaiste Éamon Gilmore has said the timetable for the introduction of abortion legislation is on-track, but it is important that the content of the legislation is right.

Speaking in Luxembourg this morning, where he is chairing a meeting of EU ministers, the Tanaiste said the purpose of the legislation was to “provide certainty to women and their medical practitioners.”

“We have a timetable which is to have this legislation dealt with by the summer recess. We intend to keep to that deadline, but of course it’s important that we get the content of the legislation right, because the whole purpose of this legislation is to protect the lives of women, and to provide certainty to women who find themselves in this situation.”

His comments come in the wake of reports that deep divisions between the coalition partners on how to delay the suicide aspect of the law, could delay tomorrow’s publication of draft abortion legislation.

High-level talks took place over the weekend involving the offices of Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Mr Gilmore, as well as Minister for Health James Reilly, in an effort to find a solution that would accommodate the dramatically different viewpoints of the Labour Party and sections of Fine Gael on the inclusion of a suicide threat as a ground for a legal termination.