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Children's Minister: ‘Six doctors is clearly too many’ for abortion panel

Frances Fitzgerald told TheJournal.ie that she wants legislation to be sensitive, reasonable and meaningful.


ONE OF THE senior Cabinet members involved in discussions about proposed abortion legislation has said that any assessment process used in the case of women seeking terminations because of suicide ideation must not require “so many consultants that it becomes illusory”.

“Six consultants is clearly too many,” Frances Fitzgerald told TheJournal.ie. “But having said that, much of medicine is involved in multi-disciplinary teams, and very rarely, medics act on their own.”

The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs has been involved in high-level talks on the draft laws which aim to work out how to legislate for the Supreme Court ruling in the X Case 21 years ago.

Reports today indicated that the legislation may not be in place by the summer recess because of a ministerial row about the structure of the laws. Though James Reilly has denied that pregnant women will face inquiry by six doctors, the Irish Times reported today that Fine Gael ministers are holding out for two separate panels of three doctors to be consulted first – with a 12-member appeals panel dealing with any disputes.

Echoing the Taoiseach’s earlier words, Fitzgerald said, “It is challenging but both parties are determined that there will be Heads of Bill developed and the legislation will, hopefully, be enacted before the summer.”

The Fine Gael TD said she wants the legislation to be sensitive and meaningful to women, as well as reasonable and sensible.

“We have to be reasonable about it and understand the concerns that people have out there about a regime that is extremely permissive. No one wants that,” she said.

“But at the same time, you also want it to be meaningful for women who find themselves in this extraordinarily difficult situation where there life is at risk, for physical reasons or mental health reasons.”

Enda Kenny has suggested that the summer break could be deferred by a week to ensure that the abortion laws, and other legislation, would be enacted.

-Camera and editing by Paul Hyland

Earlier: Ministers’ row means abortion law may miss summer deadline

Read: Ireland tells Europe that ‘X case’ law will be enacted by July

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