The Draft Bill legislating for X case is designed to placate reactionary elements of Fine Gael and seeks to criminalise and punish women in crisis pregnancies. The pro-choice movement must mobilise to exert maximum pressure on the government to remove the worst provisions in the draft and maintain the fight for a referendum to repeal eighth amendment.
Responding to the publication this week of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013 Joe Higgins TD said:
“This draft is rightly being met with disappointment, anger and incredulity by people who hoped and expected that the government would be forced by the circumstances of the death of Savita Halappanavar and the resulting movement of people for change to come up with legislation that would make a real difference for women in this country. Even the belated report of the expert group, while minimal, advocated what would have been a minor step forward from the current situation.
“However the draft contains a number of provisions, omissions and formulations that are completely objectionable and will have to be taken up in the legislative debate and by the pro choice movement outside the Dáil.
“Specifically the draft provides for too many specialists having an say over the woman’s choice and too high a threshold of unanimity especially in the case for suicide.
“The draft legislation makes no consideration for the health and well being of the woman and instead provides that a termination can only be considered when death enters the equation. This is extremely reckless and a contributory factor to the death of Savita. There is no consideration for terminations in the case of rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormalities where that would be sought by the woman for the good of her own well being.
“Finally the provision of 14 year sentence for contravening these proposed laws is an absolute outrage. Without these glaring deficiencies being addressed there is a real question mark as to whether somebody who is pro-choice can regard what is on offer from the government as truly a step forward.”
Socialist Party Councillor and pro-choice activist Councillor Ruth Coppinger said:
“As we predicted in the aftermath of the death of Savita Halappanavar the government’s strategy was to wait for the immediate wave of anger and revulsion among the majority of Irish society to abate and then come up with a wording that in the Taoiseach’s own words does not fundamentally alter the current legal situation.
“The obstacles that have been placed in front of women seeking an abortion on psychological grounds can only serve to add to their distress and in reality are designed in such a way that most women in that situation would opt to go to Britain if they can afford it.
“The proposed maximum 14 year jail sentence in section 19 of the draft bill if the woman obtained an abortion in Ireland in contravention of the law, whether by abortion pills ordered online or some other means, while at the same time section 13 affirms the right to travel and access information about abortion services abroad serves to enshrine in legislation the gross hypocrisy of the Irish solution to an Irish problem.”
Paul Murphy MEP concluded:
“It is very unfortunate that given the clear shift in wider Irish society as evidenced by opinion polls and the mobilisations by the pro-choice movement that the national debate in media and political circles is being consciously narrowed around the question of suicide.
“There is now a need to mobilise massive political pressure from below on the political establishment to force the radical amending of the government draft into something that really protects the lives of women and beyond that the naming of a date for a referendum to appeal the eighth amendment as a necessary step in permitting real choice for Irish women.”