Medical experts to appear before hearing on abortion legislation

Medical experts to appear before hearing on abortion legislation
Sam Coulter Smith.

The masters of two major maternity hospitals will give evidence today before a parliamentary hearing on proposed changes to abortion legislation.

They will be among a string of medical experts to address a cross-party health committee on the draft legislation which, if enacted, will legalise abortion where there is a substantial risk to the mother’s life, including the threat of suicide.

Rhona Mahony, from the National Maternity Hospital at Holles Street and Sam Coulter Smith, of the Rotunda Hospital, will give their opinion on the heads of the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill 2013.

Today marks the first of three public hearings on the draft legislation, which will be held in the Seanad chamber.

Each hearing is expected to last around ten hours.

Other experts in medicine and obstetrics discussing the proposals today will include Health Minister James Reilly, secretary general at the Department of Health Ambrose McLoughlin and chief medical officer Tony Holohan.

The Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Irish College of General Practitioners, Irish Medical Council and Royal College of Physicians of Ireland will also be represented.

Experts in psychiatry and law will attend the hearings on Monday and Tuesday.

The bill will legislate for the 1992 X case judgment from Ireland’s Supreme Court which found abortion is legal if there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother, including emergency medical cases, non-emergency medical cases and the threat of suicide.

The case was taken by a 14-year-old rape victim who became pregnant and was refused permission to travel for an abortion.

As well as that judgment, the loosening of rules is intended to meet requirements from a European court decision that found a woman in remission from cancer should not have been forced to travel overseas for an abortion.

The Government committed to reforming the ban on abortion by July following the death of Savita Halappanavar in a Galway hospital last year after being denied a termination during miscarriage.

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