Dail vote today - Abortion choices - Plane ticket or prison


12th June saw the publication of the The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013 on which the Dail votes this evening. In this piece of legislation, it states,

  1. "It shall be an offence to intentionally destroy unborn human life"

  1. "A person who is guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable on indictment to a fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 14 years, or both."

It was clarified in the legislation that this includes people who induce their own abortion. The government wants to criminalise those people, who are left in the desperate situation and seek out an abortion in this country. This government includes members who were willing to go to prison to give people that access, but now will happily give more sentence time to a woman who induces her own abortion than the rapist who forced her into that decision.

It is a well-known fact that people seek out abortions in this country and the very desperate are those who have to look for options here. It might be because they are an asylum seeker who lives on €19.10 per week and can't afford the abortion nor find a pro-choice solicitor to get them the papers to travel over to the UK. Or they are a mother of one disabled child, but can't find the means to take care of a second one, but not sure if they can get the €2000 together and find someone who will take care of their child when they go over. Or they are in the middle of secondary school and can't tell their pro-life parents that they need an abortion. Or they simply don't want a baby for whatever the reason and just can't get the money to pay for an abortion. These are the people this government wants to lock away for fourteen years as they induce their own abortion whether by abortion pills or endangering their lives through other methods such as pushing themselves down stairs.

These examples highlight not only that abortion needs to be legal, but it also has to be free. It should not longer be the case that people with money have options and those without are optionless.

We need to stop arguing about how many doctors. Can we not trust women with their choices and doctors with their decisions? We are now faced with much the same choices as before this bill: Plane ticket or prison?

This is why we need free, safe and legal abortion.

Picture: William Hederman

This article was first published 13th June, updated 27 June with the Abortion Rights Campaign statement below

Legislations we Can't live with


The Abortion Rights Campaign [ARC] regretfully announces that following extensive analysis, we find the ‘Protection of Life During Pregnancy’ Bill is not fit for purpose. This legislation does not establish safe and accessible abortion in Ireland as mandated by the X Case ruling. ARC is submitting amendments to this problematic legislation and unless significant changes are made, ARC cannot stand behind the so-called ‘Protection of Life During Pregnancy’ Bill.

The Bill is flawed in its criminalisation of abortion seekers and healthcare professionals. other serious issues include the remaining lack of clarity, loose terms and provisions with respect to “conscientious objection,” and its non-medically supported definition of the term “unborn.” ARC spokesperson Sinead Redmond said, “The proposed legislation currently allows for an unspecified fine or a jail sentence of up to fourteen years for the estimated thousands of women in Ireland who self-administer the abortion pill each year, during the early weeks of pregnancy. These women, and the people who assist them – friends, partners and families will be subject to penalties for accessing a procedure that the government has acknowledged the need for when it asked the people to guarantee the freedom to travel as long ago as 1992.

The UN and Council of Europe have warned that criminalisation creates a far more dangerous situation for these women- not only those attempting self abortion but those who access legal abortion abroad and suffer complications on return to Ireland (as demonstrated during the A B and C case). They  are less likely to seek urgent medical assistance as they fear punitive fines or prison time. This is legislation we can’t live with.”

The Irish Family Planning Association has drawn attention to the strong criticism of the European Court of Human Rights of the inclusion of harsh criminal sanctions in its judgement in the A, B and C v Ireland case. It concluded that criminalisation  created significant ‘chilling factor’ for both women and their doctors, dissuading healthcare professionals from suggesting a termination when the termination is medically necessary. When Doctors are forced to hesitate and check the law before providing treatment to a patient –  it is clear that the law protects neither the patient, nor the healthcare providers they interact with. The so-called Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill does not make Ireland a safer place for pregnant women. If anything, this Bill makes it worse.

Not only are the women and families who need access to abortions for fatal foetal abnormalities not included under this Bill – the definition of the unborn given specifically ensures that they can’t and won’t have access to the healthcare they need in Ireland. Also commenting, ARC spokesperson Sarah McCarthy said, “This is a terrible injustice to the women and families who are a part of the Termination For Medical Reasons (TFMR) group and those many thousands of others who have suffered the indignity of travel to access a necessary abortion.

The Bill is also deeply problematic for women facing emergency medical situations like those faced by Savita Halappanavar, as this legislation would most like not have clarified procedure enough to save her life.  What are the people of Ireland and all over the world to think and feel, knowing that even after the passing of this law, she and others could still be left to die in the Ireland of 2013?”

Unless the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill is amended to remove the criminalisation and provisions are made to provide real access to abortion in Ireland, we are all no better off than before. This is legislation we simply can’t live with.



  • Author: TJ