Possibility of amendments to abortion bill being played down

Government sources are playing down the possibility of any significant amendments to the bill allowing for abortion in limited circumstances.

TDs and senators will be able to table amendments to the Protection of Life in Pregnancy Bill, as they are with any other prospective legislation.

However, amendments must be accepted by the minister in order to be included in the final legislation. If accepted, each amendment will be subject to a vote in which the party whip will be applied.

Backbench Fine Gael TDs said over the weekend that they wanted to table amendments — including the introduction of a “gestational cut-off point” after which terminations cannot be performed in cases where the mother is suicidal — along with a review of the legislation after 12 months if abortion figures soar.

Another amendment being discussed is to allow legal representation for the unborn child if a woman is granted a termination on grounds of suicide.

The Supreme Court has ruled that a woman is entitled to a termination where there is a real and substantial risk to her life. James Reilly, the health minister, has said a time limit cannot be put on a right, and this was the advice of the Attorney General.

Vice-chair of the Oireachtas health committee, Labour TD Ciara Conway, said she believes the only amendments that might be accepted would be those that would bring the law into line with best medical practice.

“What we are trying to do here is to vindicate the constitutional right that a woman has when her life is at risk to a legal termination. And I just believe to introduce anything else won’t allow that to proceed in a constitutional way,” she said.

“It’s very hard to put time limits on constitutional rights. And I think that’s the difficulty there.”

She said deliberations between Fine Gael and Labour to agree the draft outline of legislation were “long and difficult and there were numerous drafts produced”.

The Oireachtas committee will begin hearings on the legislation next week and will meet today to decide the list of witnesses who will be called to give evidence.


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