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."