The Irish government will seek to allow abortion in limited circumstances in Ireland when the life of the mother is in danger or when she is suicidal. However, the bill does not include rape or incest among the reasons for allowing an abortion.
One senior doctor can allow the abortion in the case of his or her finding that the life of the mother is in danger. Two doctors have the right to decide in the case of physical risk.
In the case of threatened suicide three doctors need to agree on the need for an abortion and the suicidal woman can appeal to three other doctors if she is refused.
The government move comes after worldwide publicity following the death of Indian native Savita Halappanavar at Galway hospital where the failure to perform an abortion on a non-viable fetus led to her death from sepsis.
The Irish government is also seeking to finally follow the instruction of the Supreme Court which ruled 21 years ago that provision for abortion must be made where there is "a real and substantial risk" to the mother’s life, including suicide.
The ruling was made following the notorious “X” case in 1992 where a suicidal underage girl who had been raped by her father was prevented from going to England to have an abortion.
The issue is certain to be a major one with political parties in Ireland, the Fine Gael party, which is the major coalition partner, is already threatened with defections if they go ahead with the abortion bill.
The draft legislation allows abortion in the following instances;
* one consultant in the case of emergency;
* two consultants in the case of a physical risk;
* three consultants in cases of a suicide threat.
In the case of a suicide threat:
* the three consultants must be unanimous in their opinion;
* the team of three is comprised of one gynecologist and two psychiatrists;
* one of the psychiatrists does not have to be a perinatal psychiatrist;
* one of the team of three has to consult with the patient's GP;
* where the application for an abortion is refused, an appeals process is in place;
* the appeal team is comprised of one gynecologist and two psychiatrists;
* again, the three must come to a unanimous opinion;
* the appeal team will only be called in when requested by the patient.
In a statement, the government says, "The proposed legislation sets out a clear legal framework for women and for medical practitioners in Ireland.
"It will provide legal clarity for the medical profession of the circumstances where a medical termination is permissible where there is a real and substantial risk to the life, as distinct from the health, of a woman as a result of a pregnancy," it says.