Senator Zappone demands clarity from the Minister for Health in the issue of abortion guidelines

25.09.2014

Cathaoirleach,

Leader, in light of the unfolding controversy about the Abortion Guidelines published by the Department of Health last Friday, and the HSE report on Ms Y’s case made public by RTE Prime Time last night,

I have questions for the Minister for Health.

Leader, as responsible law-makers I think we no doubt all have questions for the Minister for Health, and it is absolutely imperative that we are provided with an opportunity to raise these with the Minister in our Seanad Chamber, as soon as possible. 

The people of Ireland – on all sides of the abortion debate – deserve to have us as public representatives and lawmakers spend our time facing head on whether or not our lawmaking is adequate, effective and holds its intended impact – even with, especially with, a law as fresh as the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act. 

Commenting on the publication of the Abortion Guidelines, the Minister for Health, on Friday last, was reported as saying “one thing I know as a doctor is that medicine is never black and white.  And I know as a legislator that legislation can never be black and white.  It is never going to be possible to create guidelines that provide absolute clarity.”

My first question to the Minister is, ‘why not?’ As I have trawled through guidelines, and though I am not a medic, I think there’s a lot of clarity in them. 

With due respect to our Minister, and while it is great to hear such a straight-talker, I don’t think that the issue is one of ‘clarity’ and so here are just some questions, Leader, I would like to ask the Minister if you would please get him here as soon as possible:

While the law we made says clearly that a pregnant women’s assessment is  “risk of loss of the woman’s life by way of suicide” why do the guidelines now say that what must be assessed is the woman’s risk of life “arising from suicidal intent”?

‘Suicidal intent’ as a technical term means someone must be planning an immediate act of self- harm.  Doesn’t this guideline, while very clear, restrict the risk of the woman’s life more than our law intends?

In another section of the guidelines it is stated that “an early delivery by induction or Caesarean section” is permitted under the Act (6.4).  Why wasn’t this part of the draft guidelines in July?  Why, in legislation with the intent to make abortion legal when a woman’s life is at risk, do we now have guidelines for delivery? 

Leader, we cannot shirk our responsibility as lawmakers.  Parliamentary debate on these issues should not be silenced.

Human Rights
Human Rights
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