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I am but one of thousands thinking and writing today about the death of Savita Halappanavar late last month. It is quite possible that she would have survived had her wishes been followed and she had been granted an abortion.
While she was told that she could not an abortion because this is a Catholic country, it is in fact legal to perform an abortion to save a woman’s life. The Irish Medical Council Guide to Professional Conduct and Ethics states in Section 21 on abortion, “Abortion is illegal in Ireland except where there is a real and substantial risk to the life (as distinct from the health) of the mother.”.
In 1992, the Supreme Court ruled that in the case of a risk to a woman’s life, including a threat of suicide, an abortion was permissible under the Constitution.
The issue for the doctor was that there are no legislative guidelines or Department of Health directives outlining exactly when and how this Supreme Court interpretation should be applied, in varying difficult circumstances.
The question of whether abortion should be available in other circumstances is a debate for another time. As long as Article 40.3.3 remains as it is, and it can only be altered by a popular vote, it is within these limited terms only that abortion can be provided.
This should be a matter for the government to act without delay. My criticism of the government parties is not that they voted down an opposition motion earlier this year, something that happens every week on a range of bills, but that a year and a half after government, there has been no action on the European Court of Human Rights ruling of December 2010.
I will attend the protest in outside Leinster House at 6 calling for action, and then press for this over the coming weeks, whether legislation or clear Department of Health regulations.
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