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Why our Irish abortion law would be more permissive than the British law

by | May 25, 2018

By Dr. Angelo Bottone

Health Minister Simon Harris

Our new video points out that the abortion law currently being proposed by the Government goes even further than the already very permissive British law. The British law means one in every five pregnancies there ends in abortion each year. Here we will set out exactly how what’s on offer in Ireland is more permissive than the British law.

Here in Ireland the proposed law would permit abortion for any reason up to 12 weeks. It is during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy that more than 90% of abortions take place.

After 12 weeks, our law would strongly resemble the British law which, as mentioned, is so permissive that one in five pregnancies end in abortion in Britain annually.

Now for the detail. In Britain, abortion is permitted until 24 weeks of gestation on five grounds:

  1. The life of the mother is at risk;
  2. To prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the mother;
  3. There is a risk of injury to the physical or mental health of the mother;
  4. There is a risk of injury to the physical or mental health of any existing children of the family:
  5. When the child suffers of physical or mental abnormalities.

In 2016, 97% of abortions in England and Wales were performed on ‘mental health’ grounds. Two percent were for abnormalities.

(Here the official report.)

In extreme circumstances, which accounted for 0.1% of the total number of abortions in 2016, terminations are also permitted after 24 weeks on grounds A and B.

Let’s compare this with what the Irish government has proposed.

Health Minister Simon Harris’s proposal follows the recommendations of the Joint Committee on the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution.

The big recommendation is that abortions should be permitted “with no restriction as to reason [our italics] provided that it is availed of through a GP-led service delivered in a clinical context as determined by the law and licensing practice in Ireland with a gestational limit of 12 weeks”. (2.40)

The Bill would allow abortion on physical and mental health grounds, if “the foetus has not reached viability.” This is not dissimilar to the British law which permits abortion on ‘health’ grounds up to 24 weeks.

The Bill, following the Committee recommendations, would also allow abortion without any limit if “there is present a condition affecting the foetus that is likely to lead to the death of the foetus either before birth or shortly after birth.”

In one respect only is the proposed law less permissive than the British one; it does not list non-fatal disabilities as a ground for abortion. But this is smoke and mirrors. As in countries like Germany, those abortions will be performed on the ‘mental health’ ground, with no gestational limits.

The proposed law also says that before 12 weeks there should be a waiting time of 72 hours between a woman seeing a doctor and having an abortion. This waiting period does not exist in the UK.

Editor’s note. This appeared on the webpage of the Iona Institute.

Categories: Ireland