Friday, August 22, 2008

What Ireland Needs: An Abortion Act

Okay so the title of this post is a bit of a headline grabber but bear with me as this is not a pro-choice or pro-life rant but a discussion on the legal situation of abortion in Ireland. I recently read a book where this is brought up and hence this post. The book in question is "Moments that Changed Us" by Colum Kenny (Goodreads.com link)

Article 40.3.3 of Bunreacht Na h√Čireann (Constitution of Ireland) states:

3° The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.

This subsection shall not limit freedom to travel between the State and another state.

This subsection shall not limit freedom to obtain or make available, in the State, subject to such conditions as may be laid down by law, information relating to services lawfully available in another state.


According to the case Attorney General vs X [1992] IESC 1 Chief Justice Finlay states

I, therefore, conclude that the proper test to be applied is that if it is established as a matter of probability that there is a real and substantial risk to the life, as distinct from the health, of the mother, which can only be avoided by the termination of her pregnancy, such termination is permissible, having regard to the true interpretation of Article 40,s.3, sub-s. 3 (Quoted above) of the Constitution.


Of course this means that the Oireachtas should set out legislation how this procedure should be allowed take place in Ireland instead of forcing the mother to travel abroad for a termination which can legally under the constitution take place in Ireland. Unfortunately under the Offences against the Person Act, 1861 there is a penalty of life imprisonment for any person who carries out an abortion even if this abortion is allowed by the constitution. As you can see there is a case for the changing of the 1861 act least alone that is does need updating.

While I am not an expert in law or medicine I do not like to see ambiguities in the law, especially when it comes to life. The sooner our politicians wake up and amend the Offences against the Person Act, 1861 or try again to amend the constitution we are stuck with this ambiguity of the law.

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Stephen