Abortion Legislation

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Last week the Oireachtas committee completed its deliberations on the abortion legislation, it now has to go back to the Dail for final amendments in the coming weeks.

People Before Profit have always stood for every pregnant person to have the right to choose what they do with their own body.  Thanks to the enormous Repeal movement last spring it looks pretty certain that we will finally get access to free abortion services in this country by January of next year.

The legislation makes the provisions that were promised in prior to the referendum including:

  • Abortion up to 12 weeks without reason
  • Abortion when there is a risk to the life or health of the pregnant person
  • Abortion in the case of Fatal foetal abnormality

However, Simon Harris’s draft legislation falls very short of real choice for all who need or want it.  

It is, firstly, still steeped in the language of pre-repeal Ireland.  For example, it never uses the word “abortion”, and almost the first thing in the bill is that abortion is illegal except for the circumstances allowed for in the bill. 

If Harris is really interested in making a proper break with the Ireland of the 8th Amendment he should commence the bill by stating the legality of abortion rather than the illegality and he should also not run scared from the word “abortion”.

But, second, there are still some restrictions in the legislation and our People Before Profit TD’s have tabled amendments to try and improve access to abortion for everyone.

Some of our amendments will include:

1.     Remove the 3 day waiting period: The legislation demands that the person seeking an abortion has to wait for three days after the initial appointment with a GP before they can have the necessary medication.  This is an utter insult to pregnant people who are should be allowed to take as many or as few hours/days as they decide they need before they take the medication.

2.       The legislation provides for abortion where there is “a risk to the life or serious harm to the health” of the pregnant person.  We want to amend it to say simply “a risk to the life or health”. We also want the definition of “health” to also include “social well being” in line with the World Health Organisation.

3.       The legislation still provides a criminal sentence of 14 years for doctors who provide abortions outside the terms of the bill.  This is unnecessary and maintains a chill factor for doctors.  Back street abortions would always be illegal under other legislation and medical guidelines.

4.       Conscientious objection.  We will make amendments to ensure that NO institution can conscientiously object to abortion.  This is vitally important when we see how St Vincents Hospital with its Catholic ethos will be put in charge of the new National Maternity Hospital. 

While we are seeking the above amendments the “anti choice” brigade are still pursuing their own vile and insulting changes to the legislation.  

They will be looking for provisions to include forcing pregnant people to listen to the foetal heartbeat before being allowed have an abortion.  

They want to provide for the foetal remains to be buried and other outrageous suggestions.

The ex Sinn Fein TD, Carol Nolan, also wants to stop any state spending on abortion. But the state must provide resources for medical procedures and the people have agreed that abortion is one of those procedures. Any problems of cost arise from Ireland’s system of private medicine – rather than abortion.

Thankfully, these dinosaurs are not being listened to, even by Fine Gael.  It is extremely unlikely that any of them will get through when they are voted on in the coming weeks.

As soon as the legislation is passed the regulations will be drawn up and it is expected that abortion will be available, free of charge to pregnant people in this country in January.

In the meantime, we need to stay vigilant to ensure that the spirit of the Repeal movement is carried into Irish legislation.