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Mixed reaction to new abortion guidelines for health professionals

The guidance document was published by the Department of Health today.

THERE HAS BEEN mixed reaction to the publication of a guidance document on the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act.

The Department of Health said that the guidelines have been developed to assist health professionals in operating the Act when providing care to pregnant women with life threatening conditions.

The document was prepared by the Department of Health in collaboration with a multidisciplinary committee of experts in medicine, nursing and midwifery, and law.

The Committee included nominees from relevant professional bodies including the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland, the Irish College of General Practitioners, and the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland and the Health Service Executive.

“This guidance should be followed in addition to any existing or future relevant professional and clinical guidelines,” said the Department.

Mixed reaction:

The pro-choice group Action for Choice described the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act (PLDPA) as “a fundamentally flawed and dangerous piece of legislation that is not fit for purpose”.

Sinéad Kennedy from Action for Choice said that the guidance document “amplifies rather than minimises these intrinsic flaws”.

She said that Action for Choice is particularly concerned by the document’s use of the term ‘suicidal intent’.

The 1992 Supreme Court judgment in the X case clearly specified, as noted in the guidelines, that the risk of suicide need not be ‘imminent or inevitable’, yet the use of the term ‘suicidal intent’ implies that imminence is a condition.

Action for Choice calls for the term ‘suicidal intent’ to be immediately removed from the guidance document.

Action for Choice is also calling on the government to give an immediate commitment to call a referendum in the Spring of 2015 to repeal the eighth amendment.

Meanwhile, the Pro Life Campaign said that the Government’s guidelines on abortion “reinforces the obscenity of the new law”.

PLC Deputy Chairperson Cora Sherlock said:

The law introduced last year was presented as emergency legislation needed to save women’s lives. If this were true, it wouldn’t have taken over a year for the Government to draw up the guidelines.

The PLC also criticised Fine Gael for its stance on the law.

Amnesty International, meanwhile, said that the new abortion guidelines “are mere window-dressing that will confuse health professionals and endanger women or girls’ lives and rights”.

“The only thing these guidelines really clarify is the incredibly restrictive and unworkable nature of the existing law,” said Elisa Slattery, sexual and reproductive rights researcher at Amnesty International.

Amnesty suggested that the guidelines “fail miserably to address the most pressing issue of the Act – how exactly medical professionals are to assess when a pregnancy poses a “real and substantial” risk to the life of a woman or girl”.

Read: It looks like Labour’s next manifesto will commit to widening Ireland’s abortion laws>

Read: 300 attend anti-abortion rally outside Leinster House

Read: Ireland and abortion: the facts in 2014>

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