Galway Pro-Choice Submission to the Joint Committee on Health and Children.

On Wednesday May 8th Galway Pro-Choice made a submission to the Joint Committee on Health & Children concerning the Protection of Life During Pregnancy (Heads of) Bill 2013.

Galway Pro-Choice believes that the proposed legislation will not adequately protect women’s right to life and health, or to terminate a pregnancy if their life is at risk.

The draft Bill does not provide the clarity that so many had hoped for. It still leaves many important issues either vague or unaddressed.

The exclusion of any consideration in this Bill for victims of rape or incest is shameful . The X-case was that of a 14 year old girl who was pregnant as a result of rape. This legislation will leave women in similar circumstances neglected. The fact that this Bill can appear without mentioning either rape or incest is utterly incredible.

These were our main recommendations:

  1. We strongly urge that fatal foetal abnormalities be included in the Bill. It is within the boundaries of 40.3.3 to allow for termination in these cases as there is no actual life to defend, as the foetus is not viable, and never will be
  2. Having an obstetrician as the third doctor on a panel to determine suicide risk makes no sense. A psychiatric emergency  is a medical emergency. As the Expert Group recommended, two psychiatrists is enough.
  3. When the process to decide whether a woman is entitled to a termination begins, she should be immediately entitled to advice from a mental health advocate and free legal representation if she needs it.
  4. No decision of a panel should be open to legal challenge by a third party if such a challenge may lead to further deterioration of the pregnant woman’s condition.
  5. The length of time before a decision should be reduced. Women in a distressed condition cannot wait for 14 days to have their case reviewed. In an extreme psychiatric emergency there could be severe deterioration during this time. Such a wait will make this legislation meaningless, as women will travel abroad rather than engage in this lengthy process.
  6. Doctors who have a conscientious objection to carrying out a termination, or to recommending abortion as treatment under any circumstances, should be required to register this position officially. They should not sit on any panel which decides whether a woman should be granted a termination.
  7. Freedom of information should be defined and included, so it is no longer a crime to communicate the details of services that are legal in another country.
  8. There should be no custodial sentence for women procuring illegal abortions. The proposed sentence of 14 years is offensive and completely unacceptable. Only the poorest , most vulnerable women will even consider or attempt illegal abortion. These women need care and attention, not criminalisation. The sentence of 14 years is far in excess of international norms in this area. It is also a gross violation of women’s human rights.
  9. Finally, we believe there should be a provision to ensure that no woman, having been denied a termination, will be involuntarily detained.

Ultimately, we do not believe that legislation for life-saving abortion will be enough to protect the human rights of women in Ireland. It is crucial that the 8th Amendment be repealed and that women’s lives are no longer considered equal to a foetus. We believe that if women are to have an equal right to health and bodily autonomy, then free, safe, and legal abortion must be available in Ireland.

If you would like to see the full text of our submission please email prochoicegalway@gmail.com

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