C: Merrion Street

Harris acknowledged that abortion law was breached by doctors, Tóibín claims

Minister for Health Simon Harris acknowledged that there was a breach of the abortion law in the case where a healthy unborn baby was aborted in the mistaken belief that it suffered a terminal illness, Peadar Tóibín has told the Dáil.

Earlier this year, it was revealed that a healthy baby boy was aborted after his parents were told that he would be born with a so-called fatal foetal anomaly. After the abortion had been carried out, an examination revealed that the child was perfectly healthy, and had been a victim of a misdiagnosis. The family also claimed that prior to the abortion, they had been examined by only one doctor, which is a clear breach of the abortion law, which requires that at least two doctors certify that the child is unlikely to survive for long after birth.

At a meeting on August 29th, Tóibín claims that the Minister for Health, Mr. Harris, admitted to the family that the medical notes would indicate that the hospital was in breach of the Government’s own law. Despite this, no action has been taken.

The abortion law contains an indemnity for doctors who carry out abortions, effectively protecting them from lawsuits arising from abortions that they carry out.

The family has repeatedly called for a full review into the case, but, according to Deputy Tóibín, they have had no input into the composition of that review, or what it will look at.

The Aontú leader was questioning the Taoiseach, Mr. Varadkar, during leaders questions this afternoon, and raised the issue. The Taoiseach declined to comment on the case, saying that he would not discuss individual medical cases in the house (emphasis added):

Deputy Peadar Tóibín

The Minister for Health met the family at the centre of the crisis in the National Maternity Hospital on 29 August, which I welcome. This is the case where a healthy baby was aborted under the Government’s legislation, under the section concerning life-limiting conditions and fatal foetal abnormalities. It is a heart-breaking situation. The mother has said she was examined by only one obstetrician. In that meeting, the Minister acknowledged that the medical notes indicated that the legislation was breached and it was also accepted by officials that a case such as this could be a case for the Garda. Shockingly, over six months on the family has still not had an input into the composition of the panel.

An Ceann Comhairle

I am sorry to interrupt the Deputy, but I am deeply uncomfortable about the raising of a specific matter of this nature which may be the subject of litigation or inquiry. It is not the appropriate—–

Deputy Peadar Tóibín

It is not the subject of litigation. The problem is that there is a request for a review and the family have had no input into the composition of the panel or the terms of reference. The Government is refusing the family the opportunity to input into that process. Six months on, it is not good enough.

The Taoiseach

I too am reluctant to discuss in the Chamber the medical history of any individual or anything of that nature.

Deputy Peadar Tóibín

The family asked me to raise this issue.

Video of the exchange is here:

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