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Suicidal women seeking abortion to be ‘on trial’

Suicidal women seeking a termination will be "put on trial" under Fine Gael plans to legislate for the X case, Labour has warned.

Heightened tensions within the Coalition over abortion have exploded into the open again, with Fine Gael moves to get six consultants to assess suicidal risk cases being branded "impractical" by Labour.

Draft proposals put forward by James Reilly, the health minister, are believed to have contained an attempt to ease Fine Gael backbench concern over the legislation by inserting the clause that six consultants would be needed to certify a termination in cases where suicide posed a threat to the life of the mother.

Labour vice-chairwoman of the Oireachtas health committee, Waterford TD Ciara Conway, strongly opposed the proposal.

"To put women on trial in such difficult circumstances is not the way to ensure that women’s lives are protected. It is just not a workable solution for women.

"Having six doctors — that’s a trial for women. I think this will make it completely unworkable for women who find themselves in this kind of crisis situation. It would not be an easy thing to do to establish a board like that outside the Dublin area, and are we to put other women’s lives at risk because of this?"

Labour’s Jan O’Sullivan, the housing minister, also dismissed the move, telling RTÉ: "The idea you would need six professionals seems to me to be entirely impractical. We have to respect that suicide is an enormous problem in this country and not something that in any way can be lightly dismissed. If somebody indicates that suicide is on their mind I think it has to be taken seriously."

The Cabinet had been expected to discuss the legislation tomorrow but Government sources said that was now "unlikely" as the Coalition tried to get a consensus in order to keep to its target of bringing in new laws by the summer.

FG Transport Minister Leo Varadkar admitted the Coalition was divided, saying: "There is a diversity of views on this issue, not just between the two parties, but within parties."

Energy Minister Pat Rabbitte said it was essential for the Government to stick to its timetable.

"There is clearly an issue of lack of clarity in the law and certainty for doctors to be free to do what they feel they must do.

"I want to do what we committed to do in the programme for government, which is to legislate for the X case which includes the suicide dimension, and to do that before the summer recess if we can."