Sunday, January 06, 2013

Churches and doctors to address Oireachtas on abortion

MASTERS of the country's leading maternity hospitals, as well as legal experts, lobby groups and the churches have been confirmed to appear before the Oireachtas abortion hearings next week.

The Oireachtas Health Committee begins its hearings next Tuesday in the Seanad chamber, to facilitate the large numbers expected to attend.

It is expected that as many as 40 TDs and senators could show up for the hearings on the highly contentious issue.

The hearings will last until Thursday, and the first two days will be given over to witnesses from medical and legal professions, with the final day reserved for the churches and advocacy groups.

The Government has already decided to introduce legislation and regulations to deal with abortion, but the hearings are expected to influence the specific measures to be decided upon.

Chairman Jerry Buttimer asked for the meetings to be held in a "respectful and tolerant" manner.

Representatives of the Department of Health and the Irish Medical Council will be first up on Tuesday. They are followed by Dr Rhona Mahony, master of the National Maternity Hospital in Holles Street, Dublin; Dr Sam Coulter Smith, Master of the Rotunda Hospital; and Dr Mary McCaffrey, from Kerry Hospital in Tralee.

Representatives from the College of Psychiatry Ireland, Professor Patricia Casey from the Department of Psychiatry in UCD and Professor Veronica O'Kane from the Department of Psychiatry in Tallaght Hospital will also attend.

The first day will conclude with the Irish Family Planning Association, the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and Professor Richard Greene from the Maternal Death Inquiry.


Wednesday will feature Dr Simon Mills from the Law Library, as well as Jennifer Schweppe and Ciara Staunton from the schools of law in the University of Limerick and NUI Galway respectively.

The Bar Council will attend, as will the Irish Council of Civil Liberties, Professor William Binchy from Trinity College, and former Supreme Court Judge Catherine McGuinness.

Thursday's sessions will hear from the main churches, as well as the Pro Life Campaign group, Youth Defence, Family and Life and the Iona Institute. 

It will wrap up with Choice Ireland, the National Women's Council and the Action on X Group.

Other groups not invited to appear have been asked to give submission papers, but some have complained they were given inadequate time to do so.

The hearings will be broadcast live on the internet and also on Oireachtas TV on UPC channel 207.

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