Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 December 2014

Vow over suicidal pregnant women

A senior psychiatrist has criticised plans to make stressed or depressed women face a panel of doctors in order to obtain an abortion
A senior psychiatrist has criticised plans to make stressed or depressed women face a panel of doctors in order to obtain an abortion

Health Minister James Reilly has ruled out any woman who is pregnant and suicidal having to face a doctors' panel to secure a termination.

Amid warnings from psychiatrists that it was an idiotic idea, Dr Reilly suggested that some people had got the wrong impression from the preparation of new abortion laws.

The Cabinet is expected to discuss the wider contentious reform later. Dr Reilly said the draft legislation had not been written and that some people had unfounded misapprehensions.

"It is not the case and nor was it ever going to be the case that a woman who is in a distressed state with suicidal ideation will be subject to interview by six different medical people either simultaneously or individually. That was never going to be the case," he said.

The Government has committed to reforming the ban on abortion by July following the death of Indian dentist Savita Halappanavar in a Galway hospital last year after being denied a termination during miscarriage and also following a European court ruling which found that a woman in remission from cancer should not have been forced to travel overseas for an abortion.

Siptu, Unite and the Women's Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions used the dispute over the new abortion regime to present a statement to Taoiseach Enda Kenny's office calling for legislation. They said: "Faced with such obstacles, a distressed woman or girl would probably not proceed past the first interview - making abortion unavailable in practice to women or girls who are suicidal due to unwanted pregnancy and increasing the risk to their lives."

The National Women's Council of Ireland said any changes to the law had to respect women's dignity and trust their ability to make informed choices.

Dr Reilly was forced to clarify after weekend reports that draft reforms on abortion sought to include some sort of assessment clause and were widely viewed as an effort to ensure Fine Gael backbench support.

He moved to reassure people after Dr Anthony McCarthy, one of only three perinatal psychiatrists in the country, said proposals to force potentially suicidal pregnant women to be assessed by six doctors are idiotic and a sick joke.

He said: "If a woman is seriously distressed and depressed in pregnancy and potentially suicidal, or having suicidal ideas, the idea that you would bring her through a forum, through this, almost an inquisition where she would have to tell her story in a front of six people is frankly abusive, it's truly idiotic."

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