Labour Women’s draft abortion legislation is a step in the right direction
— but thousands will continue to travel or import abortion pills in order to access abortion
Beyond Repeal of the 8th Amendment, the Abortion Rights Campaign (ARC) seeks to secure free, safe and legal access to abortion in Ireland for those who choose it.
ARC spokesperson Linda Kavanagh said “While ARC welcomes any broadening of access to abortion here in Ireland, Labour’s draft legislation fails to substantively address the issue at hand- that thousands of women travel or procure pills in order to access abortion. Like the protection of Life During Pregnancy Act, this legislation, if passed, would help only a small number of women seeking abortion services each year, leaving the situation in Ireland largely unchanged.”
“We welcome, Labour’s proposals to decriminalise abortion for women and health-care providers, and the the acknowledgement that pregnancy should be “voluntary and consensual.” We welcome other aspects of the draft legislation such as the repeal of the Regulation of Information (Services Outside the State for Termination of Pregnancies) Act 1995 and the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013. Removing these acts would mean women have access to comprehensive information on abortion and would not be criminalised for accessing a basic medical procedure in this country. We also welcome that throughout the document there is no distinction made between mental and physical health.
“With protests in the UK and NI becoming more like those seen in America, where women are harassed outside clinics, we welcome the provision in Head 15 which would make it “an offence to obstruct or impede any person seeking to access” abortion services, we see this as a positive step towards safeguarding the rights of women who wish to access abortion services.
“Unfortunately there are aspects of this bill which we have very strong reservations about. The term ‘Real and Substantial Risk’ to health is not a medical one and would still leave health-care professionals in the dark. Women need access to healthcare based on best medical practice; not vague terminology which could prevent health-care professionals from providing comprehensive, compassionate care to their patients.
“Ultimately ARC strongly asserts that women should have the right to choose what happens to their bodies and this legislation does not allow for that.
“The proposed legislation provides for rape cases to be classified as a ‘substantial risk to health’ but following the horrific interpretation of the PLDPA in the case of Ms Y, we would call on Labour give the public assurances that women who have been assaulted will not be re-traumatised through interrogation, or required in any way to ‘proved’ they have been raped through coercive reporting processes.
“This proposed legislation would make it easier for a number of women, in limited circumstances, to access abortion here in Ireland, but it fails to acknowledge that the majority of people accessing abortion fall outside this narrow scope.
“We welcome Labour’s contribution to the discussion and their realisation that immediate action must be taken on this issue. We call on all parties and candidates to, at a minimum, pledge to Repeal the 8th Amendment should they succeed in forming the next Government. We ask all those who support broadening access to legal abortion in Ireland to engage meaningfully with their candidates in advance of the 2016 General Election, and let them know that abortion is a red line issue. Candidates will need to sway the pro-choice vote if they want to form part of the next Dail.
Our Bodies, Our Choice, Our Vote.”
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