Friday 3 May 2013

Pro-choice campaigners react to Irish abortion bill

Pro-choice campaigners expressed their anger and disappointment this week after the publication of the Irish government’s proposals for abortion legislation - the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill.

Of deep concern was the exclusion of cases concerning rape, incest or fatal foetal abnormalities.

The campaign Termination for Medical Reasons Available in Ireland, TFMRIRE, said in their incredibly moving statement :

"We are heartbroken and angry at the government’s refusal to take this opportunity to legislate for the option of termination in cases of fatal foetal diagnosis. The government cannot claim ignorance of this issue, as we have forsaken our privacy and shared our deepest losses and trauma with them. We had hoped in doing this that they would they would listen, respond with compassion and act to end this injustice... We will not stop fighting for change. This unnecessary added cruelty of forcing women out of their country to seek treatment at a time when they are already experiencing the greatest loss of their lives must end."

Some of the most heartbreaking cases bpas sees are Irish women in this situation who, instead of receiving compassion and care at home, are forced to travel to England end a pregnancy that was very much wanted.

The inclusion of a 14 years prison sentence for women who obtain an illegal abortion was described by Doctors for Choice Ireland as "particularly offensive."  The Abortion Rights Campaign in Ireland echoed this sentiment arguing:

“To threaten women facing this difficult decision with imprisonment is not only wrong in and of itself, but it may prevent women from disclosing information about previous abortion to their doctors, or seeking medical care in the event of complications from illegal abortion.”

The proposals for suicidal women to be assessed by a minimum of three and up to six separate doctors also caused outrage. The Health Minister was also forced to admit that pregnant women who were rejected an abortion on the grounds of suicidal intent could be held within a psychiatric unit for the duration of their pregnancy.

Whilst the bill will be positive for the small numbers of women who are deemed able to access abortion care under the legislation, both Catholics for Choice and Abortion Support Network highlighted that the bill will do nothing for the thousands of Irish women who will still be forced to travel to access abortion services. CfC called the bill "an insult to Irish women" and Mara Clarke of the ASN stated that it will perpetuate the current situation whereby "women with money have options and women without money have babies."

In 2012 bpas saw over 700 women giving an Irish address. We suspect this does not represent the true number of Irish women coming to our clinics. We will continue to provide care for these women whilst their government turns a blind eye to the great hardship their laws are inflicting.

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