Pregnant women should be entitled to abortion if risk of dying by suicide exists, top doctor says

Mary Regan, Political Correspondent

A pregnant woman should be legally entitled to an abortion if there is a risk of her dying by suicide - even if the Surpreme Court ruling on the X Case did not determine this to be the constitutional position, acording to Master of the National Maternity Hospital, Dr Rhona Mahony.

She said everything should be done to prevent the unneccessary death of two people, which is what would happen if a pregnant woman took her own life. "Suicide is death. We are legislating here for the risk of death. When you commit suicide, you die," she said.

She was responding to questions by Fianna Fail's spokesperson on health, Billy Kelleher, at the Oireachtas Health Committee Hearings on the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill.

The proposed laws give clarity to the X Case ruling, made 21 years ago, and will allow for a termination to protect the life of the mother, including from suicide. The inclusion of suicide grounds is the most contentious part of the legislation and is opposed by a number of Fine Gael back bench TDs and at least half of the Fianna Fail parliamentary party.

Dr Mahony told the committee hearings today that the legislation will give clarity to medical practitioners. She welcomed that it will repeal the 1861 Act which carries a lifetime in prison for anyone who carries out an abortion "which hangs over us with that chilling effect."

She said that doctors in Ireland will always do everything to protect and vindicate the life of the unborn: "I have no wish to kill babies. But I do want to ensure that no woman under my care dies. If she dies, her baby will die too," she said.

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