Minister Reilly on Morning Ireland re Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill (note: not a verbatim transcript)

 

Asked: How is the Bill different from the Heads of Bill?] Since the X case in 1992 and the Referendums that followed, we’ve had no clarification as to what a pregnant woman was entitled do where her life was in danger.

We are going to clarify the legislation for the women who must use our services and the medical professionals who have a duty of care to the woman and her unborn baby.

In terms of what’s different: I will have the power to suspend institutions, there was a 28 day notification process in place but it was important to add the power to suspend – if I see worrying trends or irregular activity, I would have the ability to ask HIQA to investigate and I could suspend the service until HIQA is satisfied.  Also, I’ll receive an annual report; I’ve increased the number of hospitals because the Oireachtas hearings suggested that intensive care might be required in some cases immediately after a procedure – in Dublin the maternity hospitals do not have intensive care facilities and these might be required as well as, for example, cardiologist.

Asked: why is the Rotunda not on the list of approved institutions?] The Rotunda is included; it is certainly there as an approved location. In the definition of an appropriate location it’s a hospital that delivers maternity services.

 

Another difference is that consent is required for a GP to be consulted – that would only happen with the consent of the woman concerned.  We believe that GPs are an important part of the process but not part of certification.  Some people don’t have GPs and it may not be practical to contact GPs – that’s covered in the Bill.
Asked what about conscientious objection, e.g. for hospitals and institutions with a faith based ethos?] Conscientious objection refers to individuals and is well covered in the Medical Council guidelines.  If a doctor objected to the treatment of a patient, he is obliged to refer the patient to another doctor.  In the case of an institution, all of the institutions mentioned are funded by the taxpayer.  We could not have a situation where an institution funded by the taxpayer could deprive a taxpayer of their rights.  An institution cannot object.
Asked: What about the concerns expressed at the hearings by psychiatrists that termination was not an appropriate treatment suicidal ideation – did you reflect on that?]: We reflected on this long and hard but, as was pointed out by many people, it is on a rare occasion that this would come into play … but the Supreme Court case inshows that the situation can arise.  We had the Supreme Court case on X on the one hand and the ABC ruling by the European Court of Human Rights on the other hand and these were the parameters.  We took on board what a lot of people had to say.  This is an emotive and divisive issue.
Last night at the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party meeting we had a very sane and a very calm discussion on the issues.  Jerry Buttimer played a huge role in keeping that calm atmosphere during this debate when he chaired the hearings at the Oireachtas Health Committee.
Some feel the Bill goes too far, others that it doesn’t go far enough.  We feel what we have done here is made a huge advance in providing legal clarity.
Asked: This Bill was published the same day as the Report into the death of Savita Halappanavar – would your bill have saved her?] Regarding the timing we hoped to have it published around 9 pm last night but we had all sorts of technical problems dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s so it was a bit delayed but – I can’t say for certain if the Bill would have saved Savita Halappanavar but it would have brought much greater clarity for everyone concerned and I think that in the future it will save lives.
Asked: Praveen Halappanavar was unaware that the Report would be released – was there a rush to coincide with the publication of the Bill?] No, the Report had to be published with the chair of the Clinical Review, Prof. Sabaratnam Arulkmaran, present and he is a very busy man.  We were lucky to have someone of his calibre available to chair the review.
Asked: Praveen Halappanavar’s solicitor said he was only contacted late last night?] We sent an email to Praveen Halappanavar’s solicitor on Monday regarding this and offered a meeting and a discussion with myself and I remain available.  This has been a terrible tragedy for Praveen Halappanavar and for Savita’s family and I want to again restate my sympathy and I don’t want to say anything that will make the terrible tragedy that he had to endure any worse.  I think you’ll find the Report is very hard hitting, very straight, and doesn’t pull any punches.  It will require study along with the HIQA Report and Coroners’ Report.
Asked: The Taoiseach spoke yesterday of receiving hate mail; have you had similar?] I’ve had a number of communications and I’ve had people down at the house protesting.  I understand that this is a very emotive issue…I think the poll today shows that the people have moved on and want the clarification that this Bill will bring.
Asked: The pro-life side will say that with this Bill you have crossed a line?] This is not the reason why I went into politics but it would be a derogation of duty by me as a Minister if I didn’t address this issue which six successive Governments failed to address.  I am proud to bring the clarity that women need and that professionals need to deliver a safe and legal service.