Ireland: Abortion Bill – a first step towards a womans’ right to choose

First time to initiate proposal to legalise abortion in Ireland

On 18 – 19 April the Dail will discuss the Medical Treatment (Termination of Pregnancy in Case of Risk to Life of Pregnant Woman) Bill 2012. This is the first time that a positive proposal to legalise abortion in Ireland has been initiated and in that sense it is a truly historic step forward. Of course it is long overdue and we fully recognise that it is merely a very tiny first step, but it is important nonetheless.

The Bill put forward in my name, resulted from work undertaken and advanced in association with fellow ULA TD Joan Collins and Independent TD Mick Wallace. It is no accident that it was only the ULA that made available its Private Member’s Time to allow this vital issue for women to be discussed. Despite all the talk from Labour and Sinn Fein about being progressive forces for social change, it is clear that these parties are not willing to be seen to push the fight for abortion rights, preferring instead to hide behind the so-called expert group set up to examine the issue.

This is despite the fact that Irish people have twice voted in the last 20 years to allow abortion in Ireland where the life of a woman is at risk, including from suicide. Yet no evidence of any such abortions being carried out in Ireland exists, as successive governments have failed to legislate for it. It is because of the previous Supreme Court ruling and the constitutional referenda that we have framed the Bill in this very limited form.

But we believe that it is only a first step for abortion to be legalised in Ireland in all circumstances. We have waited long enough. Discussing this Bill now and passing it, would facilitate the expert group recommending broader abortion provision. Since moving the Bill we have been contacted by many women urging that these issues are advanced.

Over 100,000 Irish abortions have taken place in Britain for many different reasons, none of them easy, all of them valid. The hypocrisy, injustice and expense of having to travel to England for terminations, away from family and friends is a disgrace.

Those opposing the right to abortion argue that it is not ”medically necessary”. This is nonsense. Contraception is not medically necessary but it allowed women to regulate reproduction and plan their families. This is an issue of women’s rights to control their own bodies. Forcing women to continue with pregnancies arising from rape, or carrying to full term a foetus that will die upon birth is an abuse. Investing in life skills and proper family planning, to prevent unwanted pregnancies and ensuring that parents have adequate financial resources to enable them to bring up children with dignity and support is the only solution to ensure that women are able to choose what is best for them.

April’s debate is an important part of that battle and we encourage everyone to put their local TDs under pressure and come along to the Action on X protests outside the Dail.

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