THE Cabinet has decided to bring in legislation and regulations on abortion.

A statement clearly indicates the regulation and legislation will include the threat of suicide being grounds for abortion.

“Having considered the report of the of the Expert Group on the judgment in A, B and C v Ireland the Government has decided that the implementation of this judgement by way of legislation with regulations offers the most appropriate method for dealing with the issue.

“The drafting of legislation, supported by regulations, will be within the parameters of Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution as interpreted by the Supreme Court in the X case. It was also agreed to make appropriate amendments to the criminal law in this area.”

Full article by Fionnan Sheahan here

 
 
THE expert group has confirmed the obvious. Legislation with regulations represents the best way to implement the European Court of Human Rights ABC judgment. It is "constitutionally, legally and procedurally sound". Primary legislation would provide for the drafting of regulations to deal with detailed matters such as changing medical practices. The legislation would also repeal or amend the 1861 Act which criminalises abortion in this country.

The report helpfully sets out a blueprint for Government as to the content of legislation to clarify the X case test. It addresses key issues, including the specific risk of suicide, by saying a psychiatrist could be required to assess this. As Minister for Justice Alan Shatter confirmed yesterday, it would be legally impossible to legislate without including suicide risk. The X case test was confirmed by the people in two referendums in 1992 and 2002. You can't legislate for a bit of that test – it would be like being 'a bit' pregnant.

Read full article by Ivana Bacik here
 
 
THE expert group has confirmed the obvious. Legislation with regulations represents the best way to implement the European Court of Human Rights ABC judgment. It is "constitutionally, legally and procedurally sound". Primary legislation would provide for the drafting of regulations to deal with detailed matters such as changing medical practices. The legislation would also repeal or amend the 1861 Act which criminalises abortion in this country.

The report helpfully sets out a blueprint for Government as to the content of legislation to clarify the X case test. It addresses key issues, including the specific risk of suicide, by saying a psychiatrist could be required to assess this. As Minister for Justice Alan Shatter confirmed yesterday, it would be legally impossible to legislate without including suicide risk. The X case test was confirmed by the people in two referendums in 1992 and 2002. You can't legislate for a bit of that test – it would be like being 'a bit' pregnant.

Despite this, anti-abortion activists have argued against legislating for suicide risk. They say it will lead to 'abortion on demand'. This is legally wrong. The Supreme Court test for 'real and substantial risk to life' arising from risk of suicide is far stricter than the 'mental health' ground for abortion under the British 1967 Act, to which anti-abortion activists refer.

In making this argument, activists display a dismissive attitude to mental health, downplaying the horrific incidence of suicide in Ireland and suggesting suicide risk is not a 'real risk' to life. The argument is profoundly demeaning to women – implying we will be queuing up for abortions by pretending to be suicidal. It also demeans psychiatrists, by suggesting they could be so easily fooled.

In fact, as the report says: "The diagnosis of expressed suicide intent is a routine process for psychiatrists."

Another issue addressed by the report is that of time limits. Anti-abortion activists have engaged in unsavoury scaremongering, suggesting that legislating for the X case would mean carrying out abortions 'up to term'. The report clearly states that where a woman has a pregnancy that places her life at risk, and her foetus is viable, the pregnancy can be ended without ending the life of the foetus; early delivery of the baby may be possible with subsequent neonatal care.

These and other issues addressed in the report will be debated by the Oireachtas over the next three weeks, and the Government will then announce its decision before the Christmas recess. This clear timeline for action is very welcome.

Over many years, Labour has consistently called for legislation on the X case. The decision to legislate is the only one that Government can now make, in light of the expert group's findings. Public opinion is with us.

The tragic death of Savita Halappanavar has generated national outrage, with thousands of people calling for legislative action on protests around the country. Twenty years after the X case, the Government must legislate to clarify the 'grey area' of abortion law that continues to risk the lives of women. It is just a pity it has taken so long.

It is also a pity that fatal foetal abnormality is not covered in the report. Earlier this year, we heard the testimonies of four women who had to travel to England for terminations after being told their babies would not survive. It is inhumane to require women to travel abroad in such traumatic circumstances. It should be possible within the terms of the Constitution to legislate for abortion where there is no viable foetal life.

Ultimately, it is not possible under the Constitution to legislate properly for the real health needs of Irish women. Women are voting with their feet. Over 4,000 women travelled from here to England last year for abortions, most on grounds other than risk to life.

The flawed wording of the 1983 amendment, which equates the right to life of the 'unborn' with that of the pregnant woman, has created the legal quagmire we are in; and has prevented the introduction of legislation to meet the needs of these women.

That amendment should be deleted ultimately. For now, we must act swiftly and pass the X case legislation necessary to fulfil our international responsibilities, provide legal clarity and prevent further uncertainty for doctors and women. No more inaction. We know that it costs lives.

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Ivana Bacik

 
 
FINE Gael is tearing itself apart over the threat of suicide being grounds for abortion – as a shadow is cast over the expert advice given to the Government on the issue.

A respected member of the expert group on abortion resigned last summer, but her departure was never disclosed by Health Minister James Reilly.

A leading family doctors' representative, Dr Ailis Ni Riain, was one of two GPs on the expert group, but she left the group in unexplained circumstances in May. Dr Ni Riain was to the forefront of research into crisis pregnancies and post-abortion counselling.

Her resignation only came to light last night, as tensions mount in Fine Gael over abortion, with the risk of suicide as a grounds for a termination becoming the new battleground.

Party ministers and TDs told the Irish Independent they have a concern about the threat of suicide being used as a pretext for obtaining an abortion where there is not actually any psychological risk to the mother.

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The Government has been told in the expert group report that the State is under a legal obligation to establish "effective and accessible" procedures so that women who are "legitimately entitled" can have an abortion in Ireland.

The Sunday Independent has seen a full copy of the expert report that was given to the Cabinet late last week and is due to be published on Tuesday.

The report suggests it will be necessary to repeal the 1861 statute governing abortion, which it believes has a "chilling effect" on the treatment of pregnant woman in Irish hospitals.

The top-secret report was commissioned from an expert group following a European Court of Human Rights finding that an Irish citizen's rights were violated because of the absence of procedures to establish if she qualified for a lawful abortion.

The report was compiled before the Savita Halappanavar tragedy -- which is continuing to cause a political and public furore.

The expert group report, compiled by Mr Justice Sean Ryan, is likely to lead to a political firestorm.

Among the findings are:

- The State is obliged to provide procedures to establish a woman's right to an abortion as well as access to such treatments.

- In the case of a risk to the mother it must establish criteria or procedures by which a doctor is to assess that risk; and set up an independent review system where a patient disputes her doctor's refusal to certify that she is entitled to a lawful abortion and where there is a disagreement between doctors as to whether one is necessary.

Though the expert group is circumscribed, by its terms of reference, from making specific recommendations, the full unexpurgated report clearly indicates that legislation is the only appropriate response to the challenges posed by the X and C cases.

The report notes that while the State "is entitled to and indeed obliged to regulate and monitor" the rights of the unborn, it must ensure that "measures that are introduced to give effect to this constitutional right should not act as an obstacle to any woman who is legitimately entitled to seek a termination on lawful grounds".

It then gives the Government a complex list of options for creating a panel to decide such issues.

"The diagnosis of the medical specialists as to whether the woman satisfies the test in the X Case should be made expeditiously/or within a defined time limit and should be formally notified to the woman," it says.

The report also recommends that the Government must make provision for emergencies and disputes and measures to protect medical personnel involved.

"If a doctor carries out a termination in circumstances where the risk to life of the woman is imminent and inevitable rather than real and substantial, he/she should not have any liability because of the failure to follow prescribed procedures."

The Government has also been told to select locations where abortions may take place and taking into account "standards, geographical access and the need to have due regard to the right to the life of the unborn". Such centres should be certified by the Health Minister.

The report also confirms that, when it comes to concerns about suicide, in the wake of the X Case, "termination of pregnancy should be considered a medical treatment regardless of whether the risk to the woman arises on physical or mental health grounds.

"Ultimately, the most politically contentious aspect of the report is likely to be its analysis of whether non-statutory guidelines on the rights of a woman to an abortion in Irish hospitals, or a legislative response, will meet the requirements of the European Court of Human Rights," it says.

It warns that while consideration was given to the possibility of implementing the judgement without recourse to legislation, it is unlikely that "guidelines in isolation" or "some non-statutory protocols" would "fulfil all the requirements set by the European Court of Human Rights judgement."

 
 
TWO Labour party ministers have pushed for legislation on the controversial abortion issue.

The expert group report on the issue is due to outline four options about how to allow for abortions where a mother’s life is in danger.

But it has pointed out that only legislation is likely to be able to solve the problem.

Education Minister Ruairi Quinn firmly backed legislation as the way forward.

“Anyone who has an interest in this should read the 1861 legislation and look at what that actually says, and I think anyone looking at that will regard that a legislative response would seem to be the most appropriate,” he said.

His colleague, Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte, also took the same approach.

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HEALTH watchdog HIQA has launched a statutory inquiry into the death of Savita Halappanavar after a miscarriage.

A formal request for a second investigation over Mrs Halappanavar's death in hospital was made by the HSE amid concerns over the independence of its own inquiry.

It came as Labour ministers Ruairi Quinn and Pat Rabbitte backed new legislation as the only way to resolve the abortion crisis triggered by Savita’s death.

Her husband, Praveen, is battling the Government to hold a sworn, public inquiry into her death on October 28, which he claims happened after she was denied an abortion as she miscarried.

Mr Halappanavar is considering an application to the European Court of Human Rights to meet his demands for a wider investigation.

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Ireland's President Michael D Higgins says he hopes women will be safer in the wake of the death of an Indian dentist after a miscarriage.

He expressed his wish that Irish women will get the medical services they are entitled to internationally after Savita Halappanavar, 31, died 17 weeks into her pregnancy.

Her husband Praveen is battling the Irish Government and health chiefs to hold a sworn, public inquiry into her death, which he claims happened after she was denied an abortion on medical grounds.

Mr Higgins, on a three day trip to Liverpool and Manchester, rejected suggestions that Ireland's reputation around the world has been damaged by the controversy.

"I think that what is very important and what is very moving to me as president is to see the enormous response among the Irish public to the sad death of the wonderful Savita and how tragic it all is," Mr Higgins said.

"My wish, frankly, is that there be some form of investigation which meets the needs of the concerned public and meets the needs of the family and meets the need of the state."

At least 10,000 people marched through Dublin on Saturday demanding reform of abortion laws. Further protests and candlelit vigils have taken place in New York, India and elsewhere, including another demonstration at Ireland's Dail parliament tonight.

Mr Higgins urged respect for the Irish constitution, which gives equal right to life to the mother and unborn child, and for a 2010 European court ruling which found a woman living in Ireland had her human rights violated by being forced to travel overseas for a termination for fear she would suffer a cancer relapse during pregnancy.

"The Irish constitution and later European court cases have to be respected and we have to move on," he said.

Ms Halappanavar died in Galway University Hospital on October 28 after losing her baby. She contracted septicaemia.

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THE husband of Savita Halappanavar has repeated his insistence that he will not meet the chairman of an inquiry into his wife’s death following a miscarriage.

Praveen Halappanavar said in an interview to be broadcast tonight on RTE's Prime Time that he would not co-operate with an HSE-run inquiry.

"We are just not confident in the whole family about the HSE leading this investigation," he said.

"These people are salaried by the HSE. They pay them. We think that there would be some kind of bias during the investigation.

"We are requesting a public inquiry basically funded by the Irish Government."

 
 
THE eminent UK obstetrician chairing the inquiry into the death of Savita Halappanavar co-authored a report which called on countries with restrictive abortion laws to look at more liberal regimes.