TDs GOT DOWN to the addressing some of the finer details of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill this afternoon, as the select sub-committee on health spent over an hour discussing whether or not to back any of a series of minor changes to the text of the leglislation.
The main focus was a series of amendments – the majority of which had been put forward by TD Seamus Healy and Caoimhghín O’Caoláin of Sinn Fein – intended to add urgency to the language used in the proposed changes to the law surrounding abortion.
O’Caoláin had proposed to insert the phrase “with appropriate urgency” in a paragraph dealing with how medical practitioners should obtain information from a woman’s GP in cases where there was a risk of loss of life from physical illness.
Health Minister James Reilly told the deputy that the extra language was unnecessary, saying that extraneous words could lead to problems for doctors as they assess cases. He told the committee that medical workers understood implicitly the need to proceed as quickly as possible, adding:
To suggest for half a moment that you would prescribe this in law… This really is to be prescriptive.
Everyone knows that delayed diagnosis is culpable in law in negligance etcetera. I know, that if someone has appendecitis at three o’clock and I don’t operate until three the following day and it has burst, then I know I’m in serious trouble. It’s the same way with a heart attack.
The minister said the extra phrase was “superfluous”, but that he understood Deputy O’Caoláin’s desire to underline the issue.
The debate was thrown out to the floor for further discussion, with the Sinn Féin deputy still contending that the text of the Bill didn’t reflect the urgency with which doctors should respond:
The whole purpose is to strengthen the Bill. This is about giving assurances to women, delivering clarity and certainty to women at risk.
Minister Reilly took the opportunity to press home his point, saying:
With respect, I never said it was in the text – I said it was in medical practice. Furthermore, with respect, I don’t believe you were listening when I said medical practice dictates that you to act with expediency.
O’Caoláin again said he believed the amendments were reasonable, before Fine Gael’s Catherine Byrne asked Minister Reilly to again read his initial response to the amendments back the deputies.
The ULA’s Richard Boyd Barrett asked if it was possible some middle ground could be reached, but Caoimhghín O’Caoláin had already conceded that there was unlikely to be a “meeting of minds” on the issue.
The amendment was voted down after an oral vote, before the committee broke for a Dáil vote.
Committee chairman Jerry Buttimer told TheJournal.ie this morning that he was prepared to continue the hearing until 9pm tonight, if necessary. The Dáil voted to pass the Bill at the second stage last evening.
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