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89 amendments to abortion bill tabled

Among the proposed changes are sections on ‘inevitable miscarriage’ and ‘fatal foetal abnormalities’.

Action on X protest in May 2013.
Action on X protest in May 2013.
Image: Laura Hutton / Photocall Ireland

AS THE PROTECTION of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013 moves to Committee Stage, Opposition TDs have tabled 89 amendments to the proposed legislation.

Although many of that number are technical changes involving just one word, others – if accepted – could lead to fundamental differences in how the final Act will look.

During committee stage, politicians will vote on each individual amendment, but also on whether each individual section should actually be included in the bill. A number of TDs who have voiced opposition to the planned legislation have said they will vote in favour of it tonight in order for it to move to this stage, where amendments can be considered.

Tipperary deputy Seamus Healy has put forward the lion’s share of the amendments as all the Technical Group’s proposals carry his name.

Among its ideas are further sections to allow for legal terminations in the cases of ‘inevitable miscarriages’ and ‘fatal foetal abnormalities’.

Amendment 14 outlines the proposed inclusion of “inevitable miscarriage” as grounds for “medical treatment lawful under this act”. It reads:

It shall be lawful to carry out a medical procedure in respect of a pregnant woman in the course of which, or as a result of which, a pregnancy is ended, where—…subject to section 19, a medical practitioner, having examined the pregnant woman, has certified that an inevitable miscarriage is taking place.

Last October, Savita Halappanavar was deemed to be undergoing an inevitable miscarriage. It lasted about three days, during which time she requested a termination but it was denied. A report into her death found “apparent over-emphasis on the need not to intervene until the foetal heart stopped together with an under-emphasis on the need to focus appropriate attention on monitoring for and managing the risk of infection and sepsis in the mother”.

Healy also tabled a cross-party group’s amendment which would allow terminations for medical reasons be performed in Irish hospitals. Drafted by a number of abortion law experts, the change could see more than 1,000 women per year treated in Ireland instead of travelling abroad for terminations.

The Technical Group of smaller party TDs and Independents would also like to see a medical practitioner who has previously refused to perform an abortion on the grounds of conscientious objection or expressed a public opinion in general opposition to abortion as a treatment option to be precluded from any review panel.

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Suicide clause and representation for the unborn

On the controversial and divisive suicide clause, Fianna Fáil’s Billy Kelleher has proposed an additional five lines to the section. His party would like to see another line inserted to ensure that in a case where a woman is suicidal and the unborn is viable outside the womb, then every effort is made to sustain its life after delivery.

The party – which has given its members a free vote on the issue – also tabled a potential 9.7 which would see that “every attempt” is made to explore alternatives to carry out a termination or early delivery, including counselling and support.

Another Fianna Fáil amendment calls for an advocate for the unborn during medical review proceedings. Under the amendment, he or she would be nominated by the Attorney General and would be entitled to review all documents pertaining to the patient but would not be allowed cross-examine her.

In the final proposed amendment, Seamus Healy has called for any threat, harassment, endangerment and false imprisonment carried out against a woman as a result of her having sought a medical treatment under this Act to be punished by the court, which should take such conduct into account as an aggravating factor in determining any sentence to be imposed on him or her for the offence.

Download the amendments, in full>

Earlier: These TDs are voting against the proposed abortion laws

Debate: Lucinda Creighton strongly criticises abortion legislation – but doesn’t say how she’ll vote

TFMR: ‘We don’t want government empathy and compassion – give us action’

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