Ireland Approves Abortion Referendum Bill


Under Irish law, a woman who seeks an abortion after rape can face a longer prison sentence than her rapist – but this could be about to change. Actually, a woman can be sentenced to 14 years in prison for seeking termination of pregnancy. Abortion in Ireland is illegal unless it occurs as the result of a medical intervention performed to save the life of the woman. Exceptions exist only in the case of a risk to the life of the woman, including a risk of suicide. The Constitution also protects the right to travel to obtain an abortion outside the state and to receive information about services outside the state.

The Irish government has proposed the Thirty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution Bill 2018 and has agreed the wording of a national referendum on abortion to be held by the end of May. This referendum would further weaken the influence of the Catholic Church in Ireland. The upcoming vote could significantly affect the lives of women in Ireland because voters will be asked if they want to repeal article 40.3.3 – known as the eighth amendment – which since 1983 has given unborn fetuses and pregnant women an equal right to life. The wording of the Eighth Amendment will be replaced by: "Provision may be made by law for the regulation of termination of pregnancies."

If voters in a referendum vote to repeal article 40.3.3 the government has said it will introduce legislation permitting unrestricted abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Since 1983, an estimated 170,000 women have left Ireland to have terminations, and up to 2,000 women each year illegally take the abortion pill, accessed online. As of 2010, the abortion rate was 4.5 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years.

Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar said this referendum is about asking citizens to allow women to make major decisions for themselves. "It's about trusting women to decide, in the early weeks of their pregnancy, what's right for them and their families," Mr. Varadkar said. "And it's about trusting our doctors to decide when continuing with a pregnancy is a risk to the life or health of a woman." He added: "Above all it's about trusting Irish people to consider this matter in depth, with compassion and empathy, as I know they will," the BBC reports.

“Today is a significant milestone for the tens of thousands of supporters who have been campaigning for decades to remove the eighth from the constitution for once and for all. We need abortion care that is safe and regulated, in line with best medical practice, and today brings us a crucial step forward in trying to achieve this important goal,” Ailbhe Smyth of the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment said. On the other side, the anti-abortion Pro-Life campaign warned that Wednesday’s supreme court decision showed that only by voting to maintain the eighth amendment could Irish people prevent “abortion on demand” in Ireland.

Speaking after the cabinet meeting on Thursday, Simon Harris, the health minister, said that if the referendum did not pass, Ireland would be unable “to address issues in relation to women who have had fatal fetal abnormalities in their pregnancy, in relation to women who have been raped and abused in this country”, the Guardian reports.

Photo Credits: Wikimedia

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