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Abortion: leading doctor demands safeguards

18 January 2013


Evidence: the Archbishop of Dublin

Evidence: the Archbishop of Dublin

THE first female Master of an Irish maternity hospital told a government committee that she wanted assurances that she, and the women she treated, would not face custodial sentences if termination of pregnancy was decided as the only option to save a mother's life.

Dr Rhona Mahony, Master of the National Maternity Hospital, Dublin, told the hearing, set up to inform the framing of legislation on limited-abortion laws, that legal protection was essential. "I need to know I will not go to jail if, in good faith, I believe it is the right thing to save a woman's life to terminate a woman's pregnancy. I want to know I will not go to jail, and I want to know that she will not go to jail," she said.

The three-day hearing, which included representatives of organisations taking opposed views on abortion, and members of the legal profession, was also addressed by leading clergy from the main Churches. The Roman Catholic Church was the only one to say that a referendum was preferable to legislation, which was unnecessary.

The Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Michael Jackson, made a submission with Sam Harper of the Standing Committee of the C of I's General Synod. After the hearing, Dr Harper said: "We were grateful for the opportunity to participate in the public hearings. The Church of Ireland opposes abortion, but recognises that there are exceptional cases of strict and undeniable medical necessity. We believe the proposal to legislate and regulate in the area of abortion is overdue and welcome.

"Women and medical professionals need legal clarity to make informed decisions where the continuation of a pregnancy causes real and substantial risk to the life of the mother. We expressed our appreciation of the open approach . . . in the hearings, and also our commitment to the process of ongoing structured dialogue between the Churches and the State."


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