Just seven abortions have been carried out in Ireland because of a risk of suicide since the law changed in 2013, the Irish Examiner can reveal.
Official figures from the Department of Health show that since the introduction of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill, a total of 77 legal abortions have been carried out.
A large majority of those legally-performed abortions were in cases where there was an emergency resulting from a physical illness, while the remainder were as a result of a risk of physical illness.
The news comes as Taoiseach Leo Varadkar sounded an optimistic note that the new legislation could be passed by the end of the year.
“Notwithstanding a few delays along the way, we are actually on track,” he said in Austin, Texas, at the start of his week-long tour of the US.
“We have been working away on that legislation; the policy paper is already done.
“We will be able to publish a draft scheme of the legislation. We plan to do that by the end of March and if there is a yes vote in the referendum we would then have a couple of months to get that legislation through.
“So I certainly think that can all be done within this calendar year; within the lifetime of this Government.”
The Taoiseach, who met Hollywood actor and former Californian governor Arnold Schwarzenegger at the South by Southwest festival, said the upcoming referendum will be a question of allowing the Oireachtas to set laws governing the practice of abortion in Ireland.
However, despite his upbeat mood, several Cabinet ministers this weekend expressed concern that the Dáil may never get to legislate for abortion, even if the people repeal the Eighth Amendment.
There is deep-rooted opposition to the concept of unlimited access to abortion up to the 12th week of pregnancy, and, given the precarious nature of the minority Government, there is a growing feeling this administration is not robust enough to get the law changed.
“We may never get to vote on this,” one senior minister told the Irish Examiner.
Another minister said: “This may be a two-Dáil process.
“Should we get the referendum passed, it very well could be up to the next Dáil and Government to legislate for change.”
There was also fresh opposition to the proposal from a leading Church figure, who said it was “paradoxical and in some ways the ultimate delusion” to extinguish the right to life of a child.
The remarks were made by newly installed Bishop of Ossory Dermot Farrell at his episcopal ordination ceremony in Kilkenny. His appointment was made on January 3 by Pope Francis.
“There is no such thing as a human life that has no value,” said the 63-year-old bishop.
[quotes]However it is paradoxical and in some ways the ultimate delusion to extinguish this most fundamental right of all, the right to life of the innocent child, in the name of personal and civil rights.[/quotes]
Figures published by the Department of Health show suicide is not being widely cited as a reason for seeking an abortion legally. In total, there were 26 abortions in both 2014 and 2015 requested under the act in Irish hospitals, while 2016 saw a drop of one to 25.
In 2016, eight abortions were requested in cases where there was a risk from physical illness, a further 16 were emergency cases, while just one occurred in a case where there was a risk of suicide to the mother.
In 2015 and 2014, the risk of suicide was cited in three cases.
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