The religious advocacy group the Iona Institute said the Government’s statement on its intention to introduce legislation for abortion next year was “not entirely clear” in relation to the issue of suicide, but that it would be “wrong and unnecessary” to allow for it in cases where there is deemed to be suicidal intent.
A combination of legislation and regulations will be introduced to comply with the European Court of Human Rights ruling in the A, B and C case, a statement from the Department of Health said today. The Government is expected to allow the fear of suicide as a ground for abortion but may not provide for rape or sexual abuse, neither of which formed part of the X case ruling.
Iona Institute spokeswoman Maria Steen said including the threat of suicide as grounds for abortion in the legislation “would not save a single life”.
“Irish law already allows the ending of a pregnancy when there is no other choice and there is a clear threat to the life of the mother,” she said.
“A decision to include a threat of suicide as a ground for abortion would also be wrong in principle because it would authorise for the first time ever the deliberate and direct destruction of unborn human life in Ireland.”
Pro-choice groups welcomed today’s announcement, but said the government must commit to a timeframe for the introduction of legislation.
In a joint statement, Irish Choice Network, Choice Ireland, Action on X, Galway Pro-Choice, Cork Women’s Right to Choose and Doctors for Choice said the proposed legislation “should only be considered a first step towards liberalising abortion laws in Ireland”.
Action on X spokeswoman Sinéad Kennedy called on the Government to deal with the issue immediately after the Dáil returns from the Christmas break.
She said it was vital that there be no curtailment of a woman’s right to access abortion on the ground that she is suicidal in the new legislation.
“We are aware that there are moves from some TDs to have this rolled back, however this is a constitutional right confirmed by the Supreme Court decision in the X Case and the European Court of Human Rights judgment in the ABC case,” she said.
The pro-choice groups have also called for a referendum to repeal the 8th Amendment to the Constitution, which gives the unborn an equal right to life as the mother.
Choice Ireland spokeswoman Stephanie Lord said it was “inhumane” that the amendment has not been repealed before now.
“There are 4,500 women that travel overseas for abortion services every year, and many more that order pills online to induce abortions at home,” she said.
“Women have a right to make the best choice for them under their circumstances, and their right to health care must also be upheld. It is now time to introduce free, safe, and legal abortion on demand in Ireland.”
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) said the decision to put a legislative and regulatory regime in place would provide clear and effective procedures which would enable women to access lawful abortion in Ireland.
ICCL director Mark Kelly said the decision sends a clear message that the Government is committed to honouring its legal obligations to implement the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of A, B and C.
“There is no good reason why the Government should limit itself to the minimum action required to implement this one judgment,” he said.
“It should seize the opportunity to thoroughly overhaul Ireland’s antediluvian laws on abortion, including by rendering lawful the termination of pregnancies involving fatal foetal abnormalities.”
Labour Senator Ivana Bacik said the “tragic death” of Savita Halappanavar emphasised the need for legislation on abortion.
“We must act swiftly to ensure that pregnant women have access to necessary life-saving medical treatment,” she said. “We have waited 20 years for this law – it is long overdue.”
Labour Women chairwoman Sinead Ahern said Labour had gone through with its promise to be the first government to act on the abortion issue and legislate for the X case.
“Six governments in this State have failed to act on the Supreme Court judgement in 1992. Labour in government has ensured that this will not be the seventh,” she said.