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Galway Pro-Choice: Passing of legislation a historic moment in Ireland, but not one to be celebrated. July 12, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Choice, Irish Politics.
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FROM Galway Pro-Choice

21 years since the X Case Ruling, the Irish Government has finally introduced legislation to provide for life-saving terminations. However, instead of protecting women, it has made the route to their constitutional right to be so arduous that it effectively encourages them to continue to travel abroad even when legally entitled to a termination in this country.

For the first time in Irish law, this Act defines ‘unborn human life’ which was given an equal right to life to that of the woman, as a fertilised ovum from the moment of implantation. Consequently this bill does not offer the right to choose a termination to women in Ireland who are pregnant with a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality. It makes no provision for abortion in cases of rape or incest, during an inevitable miscarriage while there is still a foetal heartbeat, nor indeed does it serve the needs of women whose health is at risk if a pregnancy is continued.

Orlaith Reidy of Galway Pro-Choice stated:

“Forcing women who are suicidal to face panels of between 3 to 7 medical professionals is such an ordeal in itself that women entitled to a legal abortion here will continue to travel abroad, rendering the legislation ineffective. There is also no provision to ensure those against terminations in all circumstances cannot sit on these decision making panels raising the possibility of a woman not being granted a termination regardless of her case including if there is a genuine risk to her life.”

Savita Halappanavar died in Galway University Hospital after being denied a termination of an inevitable miscarriage. The inquest into her death found that had she been granted it when she made the request, she would most likely still be alive today. T.D’s, including five from Galway voted against this legislation as they believe it is too broad and will equate to ‘abortion on demand’. Yet this legislation is so incredibly narrow it would not have saved Savita’s life.

Dette Mc Loughlin of Galway Pro-Choice said:

“Under the bill ‘illegal’ abortion continues to be a criminal offense, carrying a 14 year prison sentence for the woman, and also for a doctor that performs such a termination, putting undue pressure on medics. This will affect only the most vulnerable women; mostly the thousands who order abortion pills online and take them without medical supervision. This will have potentially devastating consequences as women will be afraid to seek the medical care they require.”

Galway Pro-Choice concludes that we now must move towards repealing the 8th amendment (Article 40.3.3 of the constitution) to deliver what women in Ireland need and deserve, and the majority of people in Ireland support. We, along with other groups in Ireland, are calling for a referendum to repeal the 8th amendment and will be launching our campaign with a public meeting at the end of the month.

Comments»

1. madasthemistandsnow - July 12, 2013

Reblogged this on Pursued By A Bear.

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2. tomasoflatharta - July 12, 2013
3. Tawdy - July 12, 2013

A weak and insulting piece of legislation that does no service to any woman. Can the silver lining be ” That it is a start “.

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4. revolutionaryprogramme - July 12, 2013

Statements by other Pro-Choice campaign groups on the passing of the legislation:

Abortion Rights Campaign:

The Abortion Rights Campaign (ARC) welcomes the Irish government’s initiative in moving the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill, while noting that the Bill is over 21 years overdue. Despite a mandate from the European Court of Human Rights, women in Ireland have been forced to wait unnecessarily while legislators drag their feet, ignoring the ABC case decision and the results of two referendum. At last, the pro-choice movement, buoyed by the support from the people of Ireland, could not be ignored.

Despite the move to legislate, ARC asserts that the bill is not fit for purpose, nor does it comply with the ruling that any legal framework for abortion services must include accessibility. Failure to comply with the European Court of Human Rights judgement violates women’s rights. Politicians, who otherwise promote the importance of mental health issues, have absurdly created a traumatising process of assessment for suicidal pregnant women. The steps involved in procuring legal termination to save a woman’s health in this Bill do not constitute accessibility. ARC therefore welcomes the principled stance taken by a number of pro-choice TDs in voting No to the legislation.

This is legislation we can’t live with. Provision must be made to allow terminations for fatal foetal abnormalities. Women and their families, suffering the grief of knowing their much-wanted pregnancies are incompatible with life, should be able to avail of medical care in their own country.

ARC are seriously concerned about the potential outcomes from the criminalising of women and those who assist them. Women who self-administer the abortion pill, dissuaded from seeking necessary medical follow-up lest she be prosecuted, will be denied their basic right to health care. Because of the criminal penalties outlined in the Bill, a doctor may once again refuse to provide a life saving abortion because of potential legal sanctions against them. This Bill lacks the clarity to earn its name.

We now need to repeal the 8th Amendment to the Constitution which equates the right to life of a woman to an embryo or foetus, regardless of the woman’s state of health, regardless of all the other factors which may make it necessary for a woman to seek an abortion. Consistent opinion polls have shown that access to abortion is supported by the majority of the Irish people. It is only a matter of time before free, safe and legal abortion will be available in Ireland.

Doctors for Choice:

Doctors for Choice welcomes the end of 21 year filibuster
however Criminalisation and Chill factor for Doctors remains in Bill.

“The Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill is expected to pass later today following an adjournment at 5am. Whilst women and doctors have been waiting over 21 years for legislation on the The X Case judgement, this Bill does little to help women or doctors.

This Bill would most likely not have saved Savita Halappanavar. This Bill will not provide women with choice in the case of a fatal fetal abnormality or a pregnancy resulting from a criminal act- despite the overwhelming majority of the population supporting choice in these limited circumstances. In addition, an obstetrician will certify the mental health risk of women, though they are not trained in this area, and an inquisition-style panel of up to 7 medical practitioners will certify whether a woman can access an abortion.

Critically, the criminalisation of doctors and women with a 14-year prison sentence, for what is a standard healthcare procedure anywhere else in the world, will heighten the ‘chill factor’ in Ireland.

This passing of this Bill is but a pyrrhic victory. It is doubtful if the legislation will meet the ‘accessible and effective’ test of the A, B and C V’s Ireland case at the European Court of Human Rights. The Bill must be improved in the Seanad. We must also campaign for a repeal of the 8th Amendment, which has had such a toxic effect on women’s health.

We are committed to campaigning to make this Bill a better Bill for our patients and to repealing the 8th amendment’.

Cork Women’s Right to Choose Group:

Cork Women’s Right to Choose Group (CWRCG) begins its campaign to Repeal of the Eighth Amendment today.

Pro-Choice organisations supported attempts to legislate on the X Case because of the symbolic importance of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill.

As amendment after amendment was rejected, it became clear that the legislation would be very restrictive and represented no advance in women’s rights. Indeed, the section dealing with suicidal women, in particular, seems designed to ensure those who can afford it can travel to England while those too poor or sick to travel risk involuntary admission to a mental hospital.

In particular CWRCG would point to the penalties that can be imposed on any woman having an abortion outside the framework of the new Act:

CWRCG spokesperson Sandra McAvoy explained:

“We know that hundreds, if not thousands, of Irish women are now using the ‘abortion pills’ to self-abort every year. A punitive fine and/or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 14 years, as provided for by the new law, will only make these women much less likely to seek medical assistance if they suffer complications. It does not take much imagination to understand that a young girl, afraid to tell anyone she is pregnant may access pills through the internet and be terrified to seek help if she bleeds profusely.

By continuing the criminalisation of women self-aborting in Ireland (while guaranteeing the right to travel for an abortion) far from resulting in the “Protection of Life” this new Act will actually endanger the lives of the increasing number of women who take this pill in the first nine weeks of pregnancy.’

Thousands of women every year will continue to make the difficult decision to seek an abortion. Bizarrely, the same legislation that threatens them with prison for having abortions in Ireland protects their rights to travel and to obtain information on having abortions abroad. CWRCG, like the rest of the Pro-Choice movement in Ireland, will continue to offer what support we can to women going through this process. Alongside that we will continue to fight to bring about real change in Ireland that will see the end to the current dark-ages approach to women’s rights. The only way to do that is to repeal the 8th Amendment.

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