A few more thoughts on my Irish Examiner column today, on why X Case legislation must include the abortion test, which can be found here.
Considering the government has announced its intention to proceed with X Case legislation, I contacted the Taoiseach’s office to query if he welcomed Ms Creighton’s intervention. I was told that Ms Creighton’s announcement was a decision for herself but government policy was clear, that it intended introducing legislation with a suicide test, and had been reiterated by Enda Kenny on a number of occasions, most recently on Sunday in an interview with RTE’s This Week programme.
I also contacted Ms Creighton’s office on Monday morning and asked the following questions: what legal basis she felt if it was possible to omit suicide as a grounds for abortion from legislation; if she felt it was helpful to draft this legislation when it’s at odds with government policy and, finally, if she intended to vote against any legislation that includes an abortion test. Regrettably, I haven’t received a response from the Minister, yet anyway.
In any event, it is clear that Ms Creighton’s draft legislation will be both legally and politically unsound. As former supreme court justice Catherine McGuinness said, at the Oireachtas abortion hearings, it is not possible to excise parts of the X Case decision without have a referendum, something that Ms Creighton, to my knowledge, has never suggested.
The debate now must move to the framing of the mooted abortion legislation and there seems to be some consensus that consultant psychiatrists should perform the assessment of suicidal women. I contacted The Psychological Society of Ireland on Monday to query if they objected to this – particularly considering that the assessment in the original X Case was performed by a psychologist – but was told that the organisation needed “a longer time to come up with a position paper on the issue”. Why the organisation has waited until this late stage to form an opinion on the matter is something of a mystery.
Consultant psychiatrist Veronica O’Keane has also expressed concern, on medical grounds, that any legislation will be overly prescriptive when it comes to medical treatment and assessment. There is a danger that political imperatives, to draft something that those uncomfortable with the suicide test will vote for, will mean that the Bill does not give medics the latitude they need when treating women. To that end, she has recommended that any specification as regards the number of assessments be a matter for regulations, not primary legislation, and said the Department of Health should contact the Irish College Psychiatrists and request its assistance in drafting these regulations.
I emailed the Department, querying if it intended contacting the Irish College of Psychiatrists, or any other professional mental health body, to ensure that the ultimate bill, as well as being legally sound, is medically sound and received the following reply:
The Department of Health is now commencing the process of drafting legislation and regulations in this area. This process will be informed by the Report of the Expert Group on the judgment in A, B and C v Ireland and by the Report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children arising from the three days of public hearing on the issue held last week. Further consultation with relevant stakeholders might also take place during the drafting process as required.
While the department is leaving the door open to further consultation with professional bodies, it is not ideal that one such body, The Psychological Society of Ireland, appears to have no position, as of yet, on the matter.