Dublin Well Woman Centre welcomes passage of Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013
But an opportunity was missed to do more
12th July 2013
The Dublin Well Woman Centre has welcomed the passage through Dail Eireann of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill, 2013.
Speaking today (Friday), Well Woman’s Chief Executive Alison Begas stated: “We congratulate the Government for acting, even after twenty-one years, to legislate for the 1992 Supreme Court judgement in the X Case.”
“The Bill defines in legislation the process hospital doctors must follow if they need to intervene, in a tiny number of circumstances, to save a woman’s life by terminating her pregnancy. However, it is important to remember that that’s all it does.”
“We are critical of the fact that the Bill ignores fatal foetal abnormalities.”
“In the Well Woman Centre, we see a small but growing number of women every year in our crisis pregnancy counselling service who have learned that they are carrying foetuses with fatal abnormalities which make them incapable of life outside the womb, or that they will inevitably miscarry a non-viable foetus.”
“In a matter of minutes, this diagnosis turns a much-wanted pregnancy into a personal crisis and the woman must grapple with the pain of knowing her baby will die in utero, or will be born dead, or will die shortly thereafter.”
“Many of these women, along with their partners, simply and routinely travel outside Ireland to terminate their pregnancy, rather than waiting for weeks to miscarry, while at the same time they are growing visibly more pregnant.”
“Legal experts had suggested an interpretation of the X Case judgement and Article 40.3.3, which would allow for fatal foetal abnormalities to be included in the legislation, without need for a referendum. While various Government and coalition representatives expressed their personal support for women in this awful situation, it is regrettable that the Minister for Health did not give this greater consideration.”
In a June 2013 opinion poll*, 83% of respondents said that abortion should be permitted when the foetus is incapable of surviving outside the womb (an increase of 4% since February 2013).
The Well Woman Centre also raised concern over the maximum 14-year jail sentence allowed for in the Bill. Although the healthcare professional involved in the assessment process is specifically excluded from risk of criminal prosecution, the Bill leaves it open that a pregnant woman might be subjected to criminal prosecution.
“Bodies such as the Council of Europe, and the United Nations, have called for the decriminalisation of abortion, and for recognition that it is a woman’s health issue. It is hard to see how the retention of a severe criminal penalty is consistent with the State’s obligations under the European Convention of Human Rights, and we would prefer that it had been deleted from the legislation.”
“On a practical level, it also raises very real worries about women who feel driven to purchase abortifacient pills on the internet. Well Woman cannot support this practice, but we have strong concerns about a woman developing heavy bleeding after taking such medication, and who might feel too afraid to seek professional medical help, given her fear of prosecution”.
Abortion should be a woman’s health matter, and a jail sentence has no place in healthcare.