Abortion Bill will make Ireland an unsafe place to be pregnant

Press Release. 9 December 2001.

Last week Sophie Wessex had an emergency operation to end an ectopic pregnancy and save her life. Michael Martin however, insists that such "emergency scenarios ...... would not arise". Based on this assertion, the Minister's abortion Bill will restrict the places where pregnancies may be ended to a small number of "approved places". By doing so the Minister for Health is willing to put Irish women's lives at risk.

The Abortion Bill limits the places where medical treatment involving a termination of pregnancy, such as that given to Sophie Wessex, to those defined as an 'approved place' by the Minister. But he has not made clear what constitutes an 'approved place'. It may mean all maternity hospitals or all hospitals, but his comments indicate that this is unlikely.

Commenting on the risk to women's lives posed by the Bill, Sinead Ni Chulachain said:

"The medical services a pregnant woman might need will be limited - according to where the woman lives. If she lives near an 'approved place' all services will be available. But a doctor who performs an emergency termination of an ectopic pregnancy outside of an 'approved place' risks criminal prosecution under the Government's abortion Bill. Critically ill women are likely to be shuttled from place to place - delaying vital treatment - for legal reasons. This Bill fails to ensure that all women throughout Ireland have equal rights to have their lives saved, no matter where they live."

A woman who is rushed to the nearest hospital may also be denied treatment to end an ectopic pregnancy - which occur at a rate of 1 in 200 - because of the conscience clause in the Bill. The 'conscience clause' means there is no obligation on any doctor to carry out such life-saving procedures. This is in breach of international medical guidelines - like the Guiding Principles of the Commonwealth Medical Association - which insist that where a conscience clause exists, it must always be accompanied by specific provisions for emergency procedures.

The doctors said that Sophie Wessex could have died without emergency treatment. But the Minister ignores the medical evidence he does not like. The ANV and the Opposition in the Dail do not exaggerate when we say that the Bill will put Irish women's lives at risk. We call on the Progressive Democrats - and any others who have doubts about this Bill - to withdraw support and end the progress of this flawed and anti-woman Bill.


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