Dublin, 7 November 2018
As the Joint Oireachtas Committee discusses the proposed three day waiting period for abortion care, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) has said that the waiting period contained in the proposed legislation does not comply with international human rights standards and that it should be removed. We are also calling for decriminalisation of abortion and for legislation for abortion after twelve weeks in cases where the life or health of the pregnant person is at risk. There should be no qualifications such as “serious” on the risk to health.
A mandatory waiting period imposes an unnecessary restriction on safe access to abortion and also reinforces patriarchal notions of women as incapable of making decisions regarding their own health. It will particularly impact on pregnant people who are in abusive relationships, who live in remote areas, who live in direct provision or who struggle to find the resources to attend two doctors’ appointments. It will reinforce the current situation of inequality which has persisted even since the repeal of the 8th amendment and is thus incompatible with internationally recognised human rights standards. We call for its removal from the proposed legislation.
We further call for the decriminalisation of abortion, particularly given that there is no longer a constitutional impetus for this after the 25 May vote. The Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment recommended that all criminal sanctions applying to those who access abortion services be lifted and we would concur with this recommendation.
One of the most serious issues with the 8th amendment was that it put doctors in the invidious position of deciding when the risk to the life of the mother became great enough that doctors could intervene to save her. The wording of the General Scheme risks falling foul of the same problem by stating that the risk to the health of the pregnant person must be “serious” before an abortion can be provided. The risk to health must never be qualified. We instead recommend that the wording suggested by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the 8th amendment, “where the life or health of the woman is at risk”, be adopted.
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) formed part of Together for Yes, and before that the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment. We signed on to the Coalition’s policy statement on the proposed legislation in March 2018 and we reiterate that commitment now. Further, we restate our support of Lawyers for Choice’s considered statement containing recommendations for amendments to the Bill.
Notes for editors:
Lawyers for Choice statement can be found here: https://lawyers4choice.files.wordpress.com/2018/10/hrtop_briefing_final.pdf
Sinéad Nolan: firstname.lastname@example.org 087 4157162