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14 year prison penalty in the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill is inconsistent with the State’s obligation to pregnant women

By June 13, 2013News

The IFPA has said that the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill contains significant amendments which help to clarify issues for women who may be impacted, however, the IFPA is critical of the retention of criminal sanction that may apply in cases of unlawful abortions.

IFPA Chief Executive Niall Behan said:  “Clearly the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children has done an important job in considering the representations from stakeholders in the past number of weeks.  A range of changes have been made in the Bill that clarify and simplify issues for women who may be impacted.

“However, the inclusion of the maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment for having or assisting in an unlawful abortion is ineffective, disproportionate and inconsistent with the State’s obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, and international human rights law generally.

“In the A, B and C v Ireland case the European Court of Human Rights criticised the inclusion of harsh criminal sanctions in Irish law as a significant ‘chilling factor’ for both women and their doctors. It is the IFPA’s view that the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill not only maintains, but substantially reinforces this chilling effect,” he said.

To comply with the European Convention on Human Rights, the Oireachtas must exclude pregnant women from criminal liability under this legislation. 

Mr Behan added, “The IFPA legal team will now consider the other aspects of the Bill to assess whether the legislation adequately addresses the many deficiencies highlighted by the European Court of Human Rights in the A, B and C versus Ireland case. Women whose lives are at risk require and deserve nothing less.”

ENDS
Notes to editor

In the case of A, B and C v Ireland, three women known as A, B and C, supported by the IFPA, challenged Ireland’s restrictive abortion laws at the European Court of Human Rights.

The Court unanimously ruled that Ireland's failure to implement the existing constitutional right to a lawful abortion in Ireland when a woman's life is at risk violates Applicants C's rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe oversees the implementation of rulings of the European Court of Human Rights.

The Committee is monitoring the A, B and C v Ireland judgment under its enhanced supervision procedure.

View Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill 2013 here.