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Eighth Amendment distorts clinical judgement, says Master of National Maternity Hospital

The Master of the National Maternity Hospital has blamed the Eighth Amendment for distorting clinical judgements.

Dr Rhona Mahony said she is still reviewing the report of the Oireachtas Committee.

It recommended allowing terminations without restriction up to 12 weeks into the pregnancy.

The report calls for a repeal of the Eighth Amendment and that abortions should be decriminalised.

Dr Rhona Mahony. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

It also says abortion should be allowed in the cases of fatal foetal abnormality without term limits.

Other recommendations include access to free contraception, improvements to counselling and support services and there should be more sexual education in schools.

The committee's recommendations will be considered by the Oireachtas when it reconvenes in mid-January.

Dr Mahony said the current criminal consequences are not helping.

"I do believe that distorts clinical judgement. We have good example of that. For example, a High Court case where a woman was kept alive in order to incubate a foetus," she said.

There are claims of bias towards the pro-choice side from the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment.

The Pro-Life Campaign spokesperson Cora Sherlock is calling for an open debate on the issue.

"We feel that the report and the recommendations that have come out from this Committee will be remembered as one of the most biased committees ever in the history of the State," she said.

"The Committee never considered all of the families in Ireland who say that their children are alive because of the Eighth Amendment," she added.

The Committee's recommendations were welcomed elsewhere.

“Today’s report is an important end to a momentous year. With this Committee and the Citizens’ Assembly, we have finally had a meaningful consideration on how to reform Ireland’s harsh abortion laws," said Amnesty International Ireland Executive Director Colm O'Gorman.

"Once again, we have seen that when people have an opportunity to examine abortion in detail, guided by the evidence of legal and medical experts from around the world, expanding access to abortion services in Ireland is the logical, compassionate conclusion."

“TAs the Committee’s report notes, anything other than simple repeal could have a ‘profound, and relatively unprecedented, effect’. Therefore anything less than its full repeal could cast serious doubt over future legislation’s compliance with Ireland’s obligations under international human rights law.

"Some gaps remain, including in how to address pregnancies with a diagnosis of severe rather than fatal foetal impairment. However, the Department of Health now has a clear blueprint for a new legal framework for access to abortion. It must ensure that these recommendations are reflected in the legislation due to be published early next year,” he added.