Independent TD Mattie McGrath has challenged the Tánaiste to provide explicit guarantees that the proposed legislation on abortion will not lead to an unacceptable level of Government intrusion into the operational integrity of hospitals whose ethos may conflict with the legislation.
Deputy McGrath raised the concerns that the Bill under discussion is marked by its acceptance of extremely flawed premises which will inevitably set it on a collision course with institutions that may be assigned by the HSE to carry out ‘terminations’ of pregnancy.
“It is proposed that certain hospitals will be designated to perform these so called terminations. But what will be the position if the hospital refuses to perform these terminations if it conflicts with the established ethos of the hospital? What then? The Bill contains a conscientious objection clause for individuals, but will the same apply to institutions that cannot in conscience perform these procedures?”
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore acknowledged that the Bill as it currently stands is in need of serious revision and that since it has yet to go before the Health Committee and the Seanad it is expected that proposals from all sides will be taken into account. However Deputy McGrath responded by expressing his fear that such a process will only give the appearance of critical scrutiny while the major thrust of the Bill remain unchanged:
“Far from bringing clarity to this debate, the Bill has in fact created more uncertainty. It was commended by some as a positive compromise, and condemned by others as not going far enough. I want to suggest that both approaches are seriously flawed,” concluded Deputy McGrath.
The Bill will now go before the Oireachtas Health Committee and The Seanad before it is returned to the Dáil for further deliberation.