Minister: We can't make decisions on abortion law on basis of one case

The Education Minister has today rejected claims that the new legislation on abortion is flawed.

It comes amid reports that a woman, who had claimed she was suicidal, was denied a termination under the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act.

Two psychiatrists deemed her to be suicidal, but an obstetrician concluded the baby must be delivered by C-section, as the pregnancy was over 23 weeks.

It has been reported that the teenager first sought to terminate her pregnancy at eight weeks.

It is understood the pregnancy was as a result of rape and that the teenager involved could not leave Ireland to have an abortion because of her immigration status.

Campaigners say the case highlights flaws in the legislation, which was introduced in January.

Minister Jan O'Sullivan says she would like to see a referendum in the future to repeal the 8th amendment, which imposed a constitutional ban on abortion.

However she says it will not happen during the remaining life-time of this Government - adding that the legislation in place is the best that was possible at the time.

“The legislation that was introduced was all that was possible under the constitution,” she said.

“It is being monitored, I don’t think we can make decisions about it on the basis of one case, albeit a very difficult case, so I think we need to ensure that we monitor as has been planned and that we keep the legislation under observation in that regard.”

However, the new abortion laws have been strongly criticised by both pro-life and pro-choice groups.

Dr. Mary Fevier of the Doctors for Choice Group says the abortion legislation is too convoluted and flawed.

"It was always a bad laws, there were so many flaws in it,” she said.

“[Such as] this thing that you must see three practitioners but one can veto.

"And then there's an appeal - was this young woman offered an appeal, was she facilitated in an appeal?

“Then it's potentially up to seven practitioners she needs to see - all of which introduce delay and delay, as we know, leads us into these traumatic circumstances.”

The Master of the Rotunda Hospital has called for a new abortion referendum.

Sam Coulter Smith says he has grave concerns about last year's Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act - which he has described as a missed opportunity.

He says there is a lack of guidance on terminations where there is a risk of suicide and the question of ending a pregnancy when a baby is close to viability.

“My view would be yes, I think we’re mature enough as a society to for us to be able to put into place legislation which enables clinicians to be able to support women in whatever choices they decide to make I relation to these very difficult situations,” he said.

The Pro Life Campaign has strongly criticised the statements today from a number of Labour Party TDs.

Pro Life Campaign deputy chairperson Cora Sherlock said: “This is a tragic story for both mother and baby.

“There is a premature baby clinging to life in a Dublin Hospital as a direct result of last year’s abortion legislation.

“The new law was always about introducing abortion and never about providing life-saving treatments.

“Pro-choice advocates talk about the new law not providing for situations like rape and incest but they know this isn’t true. The tragic story that emerged over the weekend proves that the new law is not restrictive.

“Instead of playing politics with this tragedy, we should all be focussed on the best outcome for the mother and baby at the centre of this very difficult case.”

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