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Irish bill brings more clarity – and more heat – to abortion debate

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The proposed law states that in cases of a “real and substantial” risk to the life of the woman due to risk of suicide, three consultant doctors, one obstetrician and two psychiatrists, must unanimously certify the need for a termination. If a unanimously decision is not agreed upon, a second panel comprising three more doctors will have to be convened.

The high threshold appears to have eased the concerns of some government backbenchers. Brian Walsh, who previously said he would vote against the bill, is meeting with Mr. Kenny to discuss the legislation. Even the name of the bill has been changed – previously it was called the Protection of Maternal Life Bill – apparently to appease anti-abortion opinion.

What is the penalty for breaking the law?

There is some confusion over whether the penalty for procuring an abortion unlawfully, either by falsifying psychiatric symptoms or purchasing abortifacient pills from abroad, has been increased. The bill proposes a 14-year sentence, which pro-choice campaigners claim is a doubling of the sentencing guidelines.
Nonetheless, anti-abortion campaigners reacted with anger. One group, Youth Defence, said: "Enda Kenny would be forever known as the abortion taoiseach [prime minister]."

"The draft heads state that it is not an offense to take action "as a result of which unborn human life is ended," an important distinction since current medical practice is to act to save the life of the baby where possible, and the death of the child is a side effect of treatment. "To end life deliberately is a different matter altogether and makes abortionists out of Irish doctors who are committed to saving lives," said the organization's Clare Molloy.

Independent senator Rónán Mullen described the move as "destructive and dangerous."

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