Good morning everyone,
Last night, the Government published the general scheme of the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill 2013.
This is issue that has been very divisive and contentious for over 30 years.
It’s also an issue that is complex and sensitive, about which many Irish people have sincere and strongly held views.
We are a compassionate people. This is about women, it is about saving lives – the life of the mother and the life of the unborn.
This Bill restates the general prohibition on abortion in Ireland.
In deciding how to address the State’s obligations arising from the European Court of Human Rights Judgement in 2010, the Government was determined to put in place a process which would not divide Ireland.
That’s why this Government established an Expert Group to examine this issue in all its complexity and to put forward options on how it should be addressed.
That Group did very thorough and valuable work and it was clear from their report that best way of achieving legal clarity for both women and doctors is through legislation and regulations.
Our aim is to protect the lives of women and their unborn babies by clarifying the circumstances in which doctors can intervene where a woman’s life is at risk.
The Government last night approved the heads of a bill to protect life during pregnancy which will be referred to the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children for debate and consideration, after which a bill will be drafted.
I urge everyone in the Oireachtas who has an interest in this issue to participate in this debate.
The heads of this bill are based a number of very important principles :
-To provide legal clarity on the circumstances where a medical termination is permissible where there is a real and substantial risk to the life, as opposed to the health, of a woman as a result of a pregnancy, as required by the European Court of Human Rights Judgement in the ABC case.
-This legislation will be strictly within the parameters of the Constitution and Supreme Court Judgement in the X Case. It will cover existing constitutional rights only, it will not create any new rights.
-That the equal right to life of the unborn will be upheld and that the obligation on the medical profession to save both lives where possible will be confirmed.
-That medical termination of pregnancy can only be legally permitted in situations where the doctors involved in the assessment process have unanimously certified that it is the only treatment that will save the woman’s life by averting the real and substantial risk to her life.
-The bill will set out procedures by which assessments will be made.
-That, because of the subjective nature of the assessment of suicide risk, the legislation will provide for a demonstrably more rigorous process of assessment in such cases.
The heads of the bill are consistent with these principles and I look forward to a thorough debate on these issues in the coming weeks.