The Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) has welcomed agreement by Cabinet on the heads of the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill (30.04.13).
IFPA Chief Executive Niall Behan said: “Every year our clients include women with serious health problems whose pregnancy puts their lives at risk. Tonight’s agreement on the heads of a bill to provide solutions for these women is an important step forward.
“Beyond the heads of the bill, the proposed legislation must provide a practical and effective solution for these women. It must ensure that women and their doctors finally have legal certainty and can exercise the constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy that puts the woman’s life at risk.
“This legislation will affect only a small number of women. They include women with certain cancers; women whose pregnancy exacerbates the risk to life posed by pre-existing conditions, such as epilepsy, diabetes, auto-immune conditions, cardiac conditions; and women in whose case the risk arises on mental health grounds.
“For these women it is critical that there are no further delays in passing this legislation. It is also important that the legislation does not place undue obstacles in the way of a woman’s access to services which are her right under the Constitution,” he said.
The European Court of Human Rights held in the A, B and C v Ireland case that the lack of effective and accessible procedures to establish a right to an abortion has resulted in a striking discordance between the theoretical right to a lawful abortion in Ireland on grounds of a relevant risk to a woman’s life and the reality of its practical implementation.
Mr Behan said: “The IFPA legal team will now consider the heads of the bill and will consider the proposed legislation in detail when the full bill is published. Our objective will be to assess whether it meets the requirements of the European Court of Human Rights judgment in the A, B and C case.”
These requirements include a procedure to allow for a practical assessment by doctors and women that a real and substantial risk to the life of the pregnant woman exists.
Where differences of opinion between a woman and her doctor, or between doctors arise, there must be a fair and transparent appeal procedure to resolve these differences.
The legislation must also remove the severe criminal penalties that currently apply under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.
Mr Behan said, “The European Court of Human Rights is clear that States must guarantee not rights that are theoretical or illusory but rights that are practical and effective. The women who use our services in circumstances where a pregnancy endangers their life require and deserve nothing less.”
Contact: Catherine Heaney, DHR Communications @ 087-2309835.
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.