The long and winding road to abortion legislation in Ireland

Reading all of the “he said” “she said” opinions relating to the ‘controversial’ abortion Bill in Ireland is enough to make your head spin.  Since the untimely and unnecessary death of Savita Halappanavar there has been almost constant discussion on the subject of abortion here.  When or if terminations should be allowed under a whole range of circumstances is being argued.

Last month The Heads of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013 was published.  This is a much needed stepping stone on the road to clarity in defining when a woman can legally have an abortion.  However, the Bill is far from finished.  Right now it is not including enough to protect the lives of pregnant women in Ireland, it has not addressed circumstances where a foetus has fatal abnormalities, when a miscarriage is inevitable or in cases of incest or rape.  Although it has included when there is a risk of suicide that a pregnant woman may be granted an abortion, this will only be allowed after the woman is seen by three different practitioners and they agree.  If they do not she is entitled to appeal where she will go up in front of another three ‘experts’ who have to unanimously agree that she is a danger to herself.  It sounds like a lengthy, unfair and potentially traumatizing thing for a suicidal pregnant woman to have to go through.  Many doctors agree with this.


Some see any new type of legislation allowing for termination under any circumstances as wrong and it will ‘open the flood gates’ to main stream abortion or have women everywhere pretending to be suicidal so they can obtain a legal abortion here.  That is ridiculous on so many levels.  For one doctors and psychiatrists aren’t that stupid maybe one or two ‘fakers’ may get through the radar but mostly I am sure these professionals would know the difference between an actual person at risk of suicide and someone who isn’t.  Also, realistically what woman in her right mind would pretend to be suicidal and go up in front of potentially six different people just to get an abortion?  They wouldn’t.  Instead they would get on a plane to England much like they have been doing for years.

Government TDs cannot seem to form a general consensus as to what they want in the new legislation.  Some are for abortion in all cases, others only in certain circumstances and others do not want abortion in this country at all.  The Catholic Church is getting involved as are numerous women’s organisations and student unions.  Pro-life groups are also getting more extreme in their efforts to keep abortion out of Ireland such as threatening to slit the throats of TDs and a distasteful and intimidating leaflet campaign.

Everyone seems to have an opinion on the matter but the bottom line is that right now abortion is still very much a grey area and it should not be.

The Irish government had a chance to legislate on abortion with regards to the X case 20 years ago and they failed to do so.  With all the ‘toing and froing’ going on within its ranks now (and the involvement of outside groups) it looks like it will be a long time before Irish women get the clarity and choice that they deserve and are entitled to.  Women should be trusted and allowed to make their own decisions when it comes to their reproductive rights.  They should not have to worry about breaking the law, convincing doctors they are going to kill themselves or travelling to another country if they do not want a baby for whatever reason.

Photo Credit Why I am Pro-choice / Dear Baby G

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  • Jack

    Dumbass it’s not the woman’s body it’s the baby’s body.