Hello! I’m going to talk about a thing. I think it’s pretty important, if you live under the Irish government/care about those who do.
So today I was researching the history of abortion legislation here in Ireland, for reasons. Anyway, in my searching I happened across the details of the proposed Twenty-Fifth Amendment of the Constitution, the inclusion of which was denied in a referendum in 2002.
Super-quick recap: while the Eight Amendment, 1983, is the constitutional basis of Ireland’s abortion ban, the Supreme Court ruled in 1992 to change the Constitution to allow abortion in cases where the mother’s life was at risk. Including from suicide, because that’s what the case in question involved. The government has yet (until 21 years later, yeah) to legislate in accordance with this change.
The referendum in 2002 aimed to reverse the suicide aspect. It was not the first referendum to attempt this. The proposed Twelfth Amendment (1992) was defeated by referendum, on the same day that the right to travel for abortion and the freedom to speak about it (Thirteenth & Fourteenth) were passed.
After some extremely extended shuffling of feet, cases in the European Court of Human Rights, maternal deaths, and a whole lot of talk, Ireland is now finally legislating for the X Case (the one that led to the ruling on abortion to save the life of the mother). A Bill has been put forward that, theoretically, clarifies when it is legal to terminate. (So that, you know, no more women die because doctors are left to guess whether their patients are the right amount of dying to be protected under law).
I had some issues with the proposed Bill (a lot of issues, in fact). But today I realised why the entire thing is bullshit.
It’s called the ‘Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill’. This was a change from its original form, ‘Protection of Maternal Life in Pregnancy Bill’.
It sets out how many of what type of medical professionals are needed to evaluate certain situations. So far, so good.
In terms of suicide, however… I’m not going to reiterate here why everyone loses the head when risk of suicide is brought up as grounds for a termination. I’ll merely say that as the proposal stands, someone pregnant and suicidal might have to see as many as 6 doctors if attempting to exercise her constitutional right to an abortion in Ireland.
Such a number basically makes the suicide aspect unworkable in practice.
The weirdest aspect of the Bill, however (since the hoo-ha over the suicide risk was unfortunately to be expected) is that it would potentially criminalise abortion that occurs in Ireland. As it stands, abortion is not legal here, but many who require a termination and cannot afford to travel import ‘abortifacients’, pills to self-administer abortions. This Bill would attach a criminal sentence of up to 14 years to such activity.
Quite apart from “what are you doing,” and “you’re basically punishing people for being too poor to hide their abortions in England,” a big problem here, straight-off, is that if medical problems/complications were to arise following the use of an imported abortion pill (and they do) telling a doctor in order to have them treat you properly would be admitting to a crime. Which is a really big reason not to disclose information that could potentially save your life.
The criminalisation aspect of the Bill seems to have come out of nowhere. But it didn’t.
If you’re playing along at home, folks, I’m about to tie this back to the start, namely the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the Irish Constitution, that was rejected by the public in a national referendum.
As well as wanting to deny terminations on the grounds of suicidal ideation, the Twenty-Fifth Amendment also would have included a lovely section entitled…
The Protection of Human Life in Pregnancy Act.
Sound familiar yet?
While this act would reaffirm the right to travel with the intention of accessing abortion, it would also…
You guessed it. Criminalise abortion here. With a potential jail sentence of up to 12 years.
Here’s what I need to make absolutely clear, if anyone’s reading who’s unfamiliar with Irish law-making: Unlike the failed Twenty-Fifth Amendment, the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill does not need to go to a public referendum, since it’s a matter of legislation rather than a change to the constitution.
In other words, once the politicians have decided amongst themselves on the final wording of the bill, regardless of any public objection, if it goes through the Oireachtas, it becomes law. A Bill which will potentially make the right to termination (when the risk to life of the mother is suicide) almost impossible to access, and criminalise women who are discovered to have self-aborted here.
In other words, what the public voted against in 2002.