Protection of Life During Pregnancy offers no new rights

About The Author

Fiona Ryan & Laura Fitzgerald are members of the Socialist Party and activists with ROSA (for Reproductive rights, against Oppression, Sexism & Austerity) www.rosa.ie
Almost immediately after the Protection of Life During Pregnancy came into effect, both the Irish College of General Practitioners and the College of Psychiatrists expressed concern regarding their members carrying out abortions under the terms of the bill, with the College of Psychiatrists going further to suggest to its members not take part in the review panels where the sincerity of pregnant women expressing suicidal thoughts are judged by panel consisting of an obstetrician and two psychiatrists.

The law passed by the Government was woefully inadequate and was an utter concession to the anti-choice lobby. Legislation for specific circumstances is not only insulting to the freedom of women in general but also problematic in practice.  Until the repeal of the eighth amendment, no woman in Ireland can expect the guarantee of the full medical treatment she deserves. The fact that any woman in a situation in which pregnancy is a factor in their suicidal thoughts, will in reality, not be in a position to access an abortion in Ireland despite this being the central tenet of the X Case, shows that nothing has really changed. The despicable right wing TDs in the Dail farcically wrestling with their conscience during last year’s Dail debate because of their moral concern with saving pregnant women’s lives, not only have warped conscience but also are emblems of the backwardness of the Irish political establishment.

Ireland does not stand alone in having to endure the implementation of regressive legislation, despite overall attitudes trending towards being increasingly open and supportive of a woman’s right to choose.  Spain has seen the introduction of legislation that would remove abortion as it currently stands and instead impose a draconian roll back that restricts terminations when a woman’s life is in danger and only on the authority of two medical professionals. This legislation would also remove the right to terminate for fatal foetal abnormalities, which has been legal in Spain for three decades.

The viciousness of this attack on women has resonated strongly and the Spanish government now finds itself fighting against a movement that refuses to accept their reactionary attacks on women’s right to choose. Nonetheless, the rollback of abortion rights in Spain after it was implemented with popular support  only a few short years ago, illustrates the reactionary nature of the capitalist system, particularly in the era of austerity where not only living standards are gravely threatened, but overall social gains and rights alongside it.

In Ireland we need a broad, mass campaign of pressure and protest to demand the right to a referendum to repeal the eighth amendment.

Furthermore, the building of a strong, secular, pro-choice and anti-austerity, left-wing movement, alternative and political force is a necessary ingredient in the quest to fundamentally and finally separate the Church and State in this country, an essential aspect of the abortion rights movement’s goal for the protection of women’s lives, health, rights and choices, and something that none of the major political parties of the establishment are willing to do.