Abortion bill hasn’t led to more women “claiming suicidality” to get a termination

Nicky Ryan

The former master of the Rotuna Hospital has said there has been no increase in the number of women seeking an abortion due to a risk of suicide.

Dr Sam Coulter-Smith said there was a fear before the introduction of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy legislation that there would be “an increased number of people claiming suicidality, and wishing to have a termination on those grounds”.

“We haven’t seen that happen,” he told The Colette Fitzpatrick Show on Newstalk, saying the floodgates that were expected to open never did.

Coulter-Smith said that nationally between 20 and 30 terminations have taken place under these circumstances, with only a “tiny” number at Rotunda.

I’m not a psychiatrist, so I’m not an expert on mental health issues. Mental health is a huge issue in pregnancy. I’ve talked to a number of psychologists about this. There’s no universal agreement that termination of a pregnancy is a treatment for someone who has suicidal ideation. I’m not totally convinced.


Dr Sam Coulter-SmithSource: Screenshot via


He added that the legislation, introduced in the wake of the death of Savita Halappanavar who died from septicemia after a miscarriage in October 2012 at University Hospital Galway, is welcome:

It’s useful and good that [doctors have] a system in place that if they need to terminate a pregnancy in order to save a mother’s life, they can do so within the law.

The doctor stepped down at the end of 2015 as the lead obstetrician at the hospital after seven years.


  • Samaritans 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org
  • Console  1800 247 247 – (suicide prevention, self-harm, bereavement)
  • Aware 1890 303 302 (depression, anxiety)
  • Pieta House 01 601 0000 or email mary@pieta.ie - (suicide, self-harm)
  • Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833 634 (for ages 13 to 19)
  • Childline 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18s)

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