Two Doctors Will Sign Off on Limitless Abortions


Two doctors will determine whether a woman’s life, health or mental health is at risk before an abortion can be provided, under plans being considered by the government. The Department of Health is due to publish a policy paper outlining what legislation will replace the Eighth Amendment, in the event it is removed from the Constitution.


The 10-page policy document will confirm the Government’s commitment to implementing the recommendations of the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment and to allow abortions on demand, “with no specific indication” up to 12 weeks.


While the policy document will be detailed, Government sources stressed it would not be prescriptive as there is a significant amount of work to be completed. Among the issues to be resolved is whether a waiting period or other requirements will be placed on a woman seeking an abortion in the first three months of pregnancy.


The policy paper will commit to abortion within the first trimester being conducted by way of a pill and being a GP-led service. A three-day pause between the request for an abortion being made by the woman and the medication being distributed by the doctor is under serious consideration by the Minister for Health, Simon Harris.


In other countries, women are obliged to undergo mandatory counselling before an abortion is provided but this will not be applied here.


For abortions any time after 12 weeks, it is understood that two doctors – a gynaecologist and a doctor with speciality in the area concerned – will determine whether a woman’s life, health or mental health is at risk before an abortion is provided. A similar two-doctor process operates in Britain, but there abortions on mental health grounds are only permitted up to 24 weeks. The Irish government does not propose any time limits.


Taoiseach Leo Varadkar had indicated previously it would have to be a “serious risk” but it is understood it will not be specific about the potential risk to a woman’s life or health, and there will be no requirement to demonstrate that the risk be “real and substantial”. No distinction will be made between health or mental health. Over 97 per cent of the 200,000 abortions that take place in Britain every year are on mental health grounds.


The policy paper will also commit to the decriminalisation of abortion but will allow for doctors to be penalised. This will allow for jail sentences up to 14 years if a medical professional carries out abortions outside the planned law.

Family & Life. March 8. The Irish Times. March 6. The Times. March 3.

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