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IFPA calls for no vote in abortion referendum

By October 7, 2001News

– Release date: 08 October 2001

The Irish Family Planning Association has said, today, that it will be calling for a 'no vote' in the forthcoming referendum on abortion.

Speaking at a briefing on the Government's proposals on abortion, IFPA Chief Executive,Tony O'Brien said, "central to what the Government is seeking is to make the woman's right to life less equal to that of the 'unborn'.

Effectively, underneath all of the progressive language used on Tuesday by the Taoiseach, Minister Micheál Martin and by Minister of State Liz O'Donnell, the key objective of the Government's proposals is to overturn the rulings by the Supreme Court in both the X and C cases. This is a highly retrograde move."

By making a decision to exclude suicide from subsection 1 of the legislation, the Government is saying that consultant obstetricans may lawfully terminate a pregnancy, after implantation but before viability, on the basis of advice from other doctors, such as cardiologists and nephrologists. However, they may not do so if that advice comes from a psychiatrist.

"This suggests that psychiatrists' considered opinions are less valuable than those of other doctors when it comes to dealing with suicidal women who are pregnant. "The more pressing issue, however, in relation to the exclusion of suicide as a grounds of risk, is the appalling vista in which a consultant psychiatrist might reach the considered view that, in their reasoned opinion, the ending of a pregnancy is necessary to save the life of the mother because of the risk of suicide, but where the opinion cannot be acted upon. "This is the risk the Government is asking us to take. It is our hope that it does not take an actual suicide to prove to the Government that this is simply a risk not worth taking.

The Irish Family Planning Association also condemned the provisions in the Bill to criminalise women who have abortions in Ireland. "Far from being sympathetic to women in a crisis pregnancy situation, the Government's Bill criminalises women who, for whatever desperate reasons, seek a self-induced abortion in Ireland. Should such a woman survive, rather than a compassionate and supportive response, she would be met by criminal prosecution and the prospect of a 12 year prison sentence on conviction.

"In a nutshell, the Toaiseach is telling Irish women, if you can afford to travel, you may get on a plane and that's your business, but if you are on a low income and facing a desperate situation, you may face a jail sentence of 12 years if you carry out a self-induced abortion."

During today's briefing the IFPA said that if the suicide risk was catered for in legislation the need for a referendum would not exist.

Tony O'Brien also condemned the Government for the lack of any consultation with groups working in the area of sexual and reproductive health prior to the publication of Tuesday’s proposals.

"The last communication which the IFPA receive from the Government in regard to abortion was a copy of the All-Party report last November. Despite all the emphasis by the Government on consensus, it is clear that the consensus no being claimed by the Taoiseach is no more than empty rhetoric."