Ireland publishes bill on life-saving abortions

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Obstetricians long have complained they need clearly defined abortion regulations to avoid lawsuits or even  murder charges.

“We’re pleased to see legislators doing the job they’re paid to do. After 21 years,” said Dr. Peter Boylan, a prominent obstetrician who ran a Dublin maternity hospital.

Dr. Boylan said dozens of life-saving abortions had been performed annually in Irish hospitals, but only involving the most clear-cut emergencies. Too often, he said, doctors advised patients to go to England.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2010 that women’s lives were being unnecessarily endangered by a system that forced seriously ill women to travel while pregnant.

The government took action after a 31-year-old woman, Savita Halappanavar, died in an Irish hospital in October. Halappanavar, who was 17 weeks pregnant, died from blood poisoning one week after being admitted at the start of a miscarriage. As her condition worsened, doctors rejected pleas to abort the fetus because its heart was still beating. Subsequent investigations determined that by the time the fetus died, it was too late to save the woman.

Some of Ireland’s approximately 350 psychiatrists have formed rival lobbying groups. Those opposed argue that abortion is never an acceptable treatment for someone contemplating suicide.

Anthony McCarthy, one of only three psychologists in Ireland who specializes in counseling pregnant women, welcomed the bill — but forecast its provisions would affect only “a tiny number” of patients.

Over the past 16 years, Mr. McCarthy said, he had helped women suffering from self-destructive delusions or hallucinations who may have stabbed themselves in the stomach or taken drug overdoses in attempts to kill themselves, their fetuses or both. However, he believed that only one of those patients was really serious about suicide.

“The vast majority do not want termination of their pregnancy. They want help with their depression and suicidal thinking,” Mr. McCarthy said.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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