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Three-quarters of population favour liberalisation of abortion laws in Ireland

By March 8, 2010News

Press Release – 8 March 2010

The Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) has welcomed the publication today (08.03.10) of a new YouGov national opinion poll which indicates high levels of support for increased access to abortion in Ireland.

The poll reflects a significant shift in public attitudes with three quarters of those questioned in favour of liberalisation of Irish abortion laws. 78 per cent of those questioned support access to abortion in Ireland if the pregnancy endangers a woman’s health or if the pregnancy is the result of sexual abuse, rape or incest.

Support for abortion when a pregnancy seriously endangers a woman’s life increases further to 87 per cent.

The IFPA believes that the criminalisation of abortion in Ireland has little impact on abortion rates; it merely adds to the burden and stress experienced by women experiencing crisis pregnancies.

It is the view of the IFPA that Irish laws on abortion are out of step with those of its European neighbours. Forty four out of 47 European countries provide for abortion to protect women’s health.

In the light of growing public support for liberalisation of Ireland’s abortion laws the IFPA has called on the Government to face up to its responsibilities and stop exiling women who are experiencing crisis pregnancies.

Niall Behan, Chief Executive of the IFPA said: “Attitudes towards abortion in Ireland have changed dramatically in recent years and the vast majority of Irish people now recognise that many women face difficult dilemmas in pregnancy. This poll is the latest in a long line of opinion polls which indicate that the Irish people want the Government to face up to reality of women’s and girls’ lives.”

The poll, commissioned by Marie Stopes, found that:

  • Approximately nine out 10 respondents (87%) agreed that termination of pregnancy should be permitted if the pregnancy seriously endangers the woman’s life;
  • More than three quarters of respondents (79%) agreed that termination of pregnancy should be permitted if the woman’s health is at risk;
  • Nearly eight out of 10 respondents (78%) agreed that termination of pregnancy should be permitted if the pregnancy is the result of sexual abuse / rape or incest;
  • Just under two thirds of respondents (62%) agreed that termination of pregnancy should be permitted if there is evidence of a profound foetal abnormality;
  • Over four out of 10 respondents (41%) agreed that termination of pregnancy should be permitted if the woman believes it is in her and / or her family's best interest;
  • Only three per cent of respondents felt that abortion in Ireland is not acceptable under any circumstances

Notes to Editor:

The 1861 Offences Against the Person Act is the basis for the criminalisation of abortion in Ireland. Under the Act, the punishment for women who “unlawfully procure a miscarriage” is life imprisonment.

Abortion is legal in Ireland when there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the pregnant woman this includes the risk of suicide. The current legal provisions do not allow for lawful termination of pregnancy when the woman’s health is at risk, where the pregnancy is a result of rape or/and incest, where the foetus will not survive outside the womb or where the pregnant woman decides that continuation of the pregnancy is not in her or her family’s best interests.

Since 1980, at least 138,000 women travelled from the Republic of Ireland for abortion services in Britain. An increasing number of women are opting to access safe and legal abortion services in EU countries other than Britain.

As a service provider the IFPA has extensive knowledge of the unjustifiable physical, financial and emotional hardship experienced by women who are forced to travel abroad for health care that they feel should be available to them at home.

The IFPA provides free non-directive pregnancy counselling services at 11 centres throughout Ireland. The IFPA provides post-abortion support services and post-abortion medical consultation. The IFPA also operates a national pregnancy helpline – 1850 49 50 51