“Minister should debate, instead of name calling through a press officer”

The minister for health is engaged in a campaign of misinformation about the heads of bill that the Government published laying out the proposed regulation of abortion, Save the 8th has said today.

At a press conference, the organisation challenged the Minister to debate the heads of bill directly, rather than “name calling through a press officer”.

The organisation pointed to several inconsistencies between the bill, and Minister Harris’s public statements about the bill.

For example, Minister Harris has said that “late term abortions will be illegal”.

However there is no such prohibition on late term abortions in the heads of bill published by the Government.

Minister Harris has said that in cases where the foetus can survive outside the womb, the baby will be delivered.

However, no such provision exists in his bill. Indeed, “termination of pregnancy” is defined in his bill as:

“—termination of pregnancy means a medical procedure which is intended to end the life of the foetus;”

Most prominently, Minister Harris said in a statement last week that it was a “big lie” to say abortions would be legal at six months. This is patently and obviously untrue.

The heads of the bill allow an abortion until viability where there is a risk of serious harm to the mental health of the mother.
“serious harm” is undefined in the bill.

The bill does not explicitly require a psychiatric assessment prior to an abortion happening on mental health grounds.

Speaking at the press conference, Save the 8th’s John McGuirk said:

“Minister Harris is deliberately and knowingly misleading the public about the contents of his own bill. He says abortions will not be legal at six months, but it is right there in the bill under head 4. Indeed under head 5, no term limit is imposed for abortion on mental health grounds right up to birth.

Nowhere in the bill does it require a psychiatric assessment before abortions take place on mental health grounds.
The failure of the referendum commission to address the contents of this proposal is allowing Minister Harris to mislead the public, and that is very unfortunate.

So we are challenging Minister Harris to come out and debate his proposal. He wrote it, he proposed it, he should defend it. That is very reasonable, and that it has not happened yet is shameful”.

Also speaking at the Press Conference, consultant psychiatrist Patricia Casey said the proposal for abortion of a healthy baby on mental health grounds was “astonishing”.

She said:

“I have studied this bill in detail now and its contents are astonishing.

I have practiced in psychiatry for decades. The one thing I have learned in that time is that there is no such thing as a simple mental health issue.

Mental health problems are complex, hard to predict, and very rarely have a single root cause.

The truth is that if a psychiatric assessment was involved, there would never be any abortion on the grounds of mental health, because abortion is not a treatment for a mental health issue.

Everywhere abortion has been introduced on mental health grounds, it has led to abortion on demand. You cannot find one country in the world where this is not the case.”

General Practitioner (ret) Dr. Maire Neasta NicGearailt said:

“This is abortion on mental health grounds up to viability, and those mental health grounds are not defined.

I challenge the Minister to outline what mental health conditions he believes require an abortion. It’s a simple question.
Abortions where a woman is suicidal are already legal in Ireland.

Everywhere abortion on mental health grounds has been introduced, it has led to abortions on demand.
The minister’s bill makes no explicit requirement even for a psychiatric assessment. He has said that those who have pointed out the basic facts are lying. This is a cheap and dishonest smear from a Minister who is determined to get this referendum passed by hook, or by crook.”