Women in Ireland Deserve Better than the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill

The Abortion Rights Campaign (ARC) commends the publishing of the Heads of Bill for the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013 as a step toward securing access to safe and legal Abortion in Ireland. However, ARC is deeply disappointed by several sections of the draft legislation.

In particular, the campaign is extremely alarmed by the inclusion of the assessment of 3 doctors for termination when a woman is at risk of suicide, and Head 19, which replaces the relevant sections of the Offences against the Person Act 1861.

Spokesperson for the group Cathie Doherty said,

“While we welcome the publishing of the Heads of Bill as an indication that our legislators are following through on their promise to enact this life saving legislation, ARC feels that certain elements of the bill will still prevent women from accessing their constitutional right.

“Requiring 3 doctors to assess a suicidal pregnant woman is outrageous. This legislation will be redundant if the women affected will continue to travel to England rather than face interrogation by multiple doctors.

“Under this legislation, a suicidal woman could potentially face the tortuous process of being scrutinised by up to six separate doctors to prove the real risk of ending her life if she is denied access to a termination. Those disproportionately affected will be migrant women, women who cannot afford to travel, women who are too ill to travel, women under control of abusive partners: in other words, the most vulnerable.”

The campaign is Commenting on the Head 19 of Bill, ARC spokesperson Sarah Malone said,

“Head 19, which outlines a possible penalty of 14 years in prison for illegal abortion in Ireland, is nothing short of barbaric. To threaten women facing this difficult decision with imprisonment is not only wrong in and of itself, but it may prevent women from disclosing information about previous abortion to their doctors, or seeking medical care in the event of complications from illegal abortion. It is indicated under Head 19 that abortion must be criminalised because of Article 40.3.3. This clearly displays the need to repeal the 8th Amendment in order to afford the women of Ireland parity in health care and adequate protection for their lives.”

The Abortion Rights Campaign is also deeply concerned that the Heads include a provision that allows ‘any person who believes’ they have a right to take action and prevent the termination to do so through the courts, further complicating this personal decision made by a woman and supported by her healthcare professionals.

While X case legislation is a step in the right direction, what remains is the need to repeal the 8th Amendment, to provide for the needs of rape and incest survivors, women carrying unviable foetuses, and others who slip through the cracks of this legislation who will still have to travel to access health care. The ARC will continue to campaign for access to free, safe, and legal abortion in Ireland.