Monday, 10 December 2018
Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018: Committee Stage (Resumed)
On amendments Nos. 11 and 20, there is a conflict between sections 9 and 11 which has not been explored in detail. As Senator Ruane noted, the amendment concerns the need for a certifying doctor to be the doctor who carries out the termination. The Minister realised the problem and amended this requirement in respect of early pregnancy when the Bill was before the Dáil. The requirement that the same practitioner certify and subsequently provide a termination is likely to act as a barrier to access to care and, significantly, to impose significant rostering burdens in hospital settings, leading to delay and later terminations, especially after 12 weeks.
The amendment seeks to clarify that medical practitioners may transfer care to colleagues, as happens in healthcare generally. A same doctor requirement is not workable in practice due to part-time working arrangements, rostering, annual leave, sick leave and so on. On Report Stage in the Dáil, the Minister appeared to suggest that this provision is necessary to ensure the chain of causation is not broken if an unlawful abortion takes place in a hospital setting, in other words, this requirement has been provided in a legal sense to identify who to prosecute in cases of unlawful abortion after 12 weeks. This is really something else. It means criminalisation is intended in hospital settings, even when all the proper certification and procedures have been gone through. It is the essence of what it means to perpetuate the chilling effect. It behoves us that common sense prevails here in order that legislation can be workable in a practical sense.