The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill was passed by the Oireachtas on 11th July 2013, and on 30th July the Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Ireland’s Prime Minister, signed the Bill into law.
Members of the Dáilvoted 127 to 31 to legalise abortion in cases of medical emergencies as well as if the pregnant woman is at risk of suicide. Abortion in all other circumstances (including rape and incest) remains illegal.
The Bill includes numerous provisions that continue to restrict access to legal abortion, including stipulating that between two and three medical practitioners of varying specialties must approve the termination (except in emergency situations, wherein one physician can approve and then perform the termination). Moreover, the Bill specifies that abortions may only occur in an “appropriate institution” which only include maternity hospitals and some hospitals with emergency facilities.
Abortion Rights are concerned that these provisions, amongst others, make obtaining an abortion a very lengthy, costly and potentially stressful process for women and their families. Locational provisions disproportionality disadvantage rural women who are less able to attend an “appropriate institution”, particularly given the World Health Organisation (2008) lists abortion as one of the simplest and safest medical procedures when performed safely and legally.
Nevertheless, more than 22 years after the ‘X case’ and the promise by various Irish governments to reform and/or clarify abortion law, Irish women will now have limited access to legal terminations. Similarly, doctors now have greater clarity to guide their service provision.
However, Abortion Rights hopes that further legal advancements are made in Ireland to enable women to truly choose if and when they become parents.
According to Irish department of health figures released last week, approximately 4000 Irish women travelled to British hospitals and clinics to terminate their pregnancies last year. Given the limitations of the new law, it is predicted that many Irish women will continue to travel abroad to have their reproductive health needs met.
The Bill is now available in full.