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The IFPA Welcomes Intention to Legislate for X Case but Expresses Concern over Provisions in Heads of Bill

By May 2, 2013News

The IFPA has welcomed the publication of the Heads of the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill as an important first step in making abortion services available to women whose lives are at risk during pregnancy.

The IFPA legal and medical team has analysed the Heads of the Bill and has found that there is significant work to be done to ensure women’s lives are protected during pregnancy.

The legislation is required to create legal clarity for doctors and women. However, the IFPA is concerned that the proposed Heads of the Bill are overly complex and may discourage women and doctors from relying on it because of unnecessary barriers and uncertainty.

In particular the IFPA is concerned about the chilling effect of criminal liability, and that the duty of care is placed on women and doctors.

IFPA Chief Executive Niall Behan said, “The IFPA welcomes the publication of the Heads of Bill and the commitment of the Government to enact legislation before the summer recess.

“The Oireachtas Health Committee will need to address a number of concerns in relation to the practical implementation of the legislation, and the obstacles that are placed in the path of women who need to establish that they have a right to a termination of pregnancy under Irish law.” 

IFPA Honorary Legal Counsel Catherine Forde said, “To reduce the chilling effect of the criminal sanctions on women and doctors, the language in the Heads of Bills needs to change from “it is an not offence”, to stating that it is now lawful provide abortions when a woman’s life is at risk. Also, it would be greatly assist women and doctors reaching their decisions if the legislation stated, as set out in the X judgment, that the risk to the woman’s life does not have to be immediate or inevitable”.

IFPA Medical Director Dr Caitríona Henchion said, “The legislation needs to specify a system which avoids delay from first presentation and ensures a simple pathway for women. A speeding up of the review system is also required to a maximum of 3 days. This will ensure, as specified in the A, B & C judgment, that the legislation is accessible and practicable for women”.

ENDS

Contact: Patrick Heffernan, IFPA Communications Officer @ 086 7952167

Notes to the 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.

In March 2013 the Government informed the Council of Europe (COE) that draft legislation would be published in April with the goal of having it enacted by the end of July 2013. The Government undertook to file an updated Action Plan by 8 May 2013 to update the Committee of Ministers on developments and next steps in the implementation of the judgment.