Removing the 8th amendment isn’t about stripping the foetus of all protections, but about rebalancing protections between the woman and the foetus. At the moment, the foetal right to life under the 8th Amendment prevents courts and doctors from considering a woman’s health, conscience, liberty and other constitutional rights at all. What we need is balance, not absolutism: A recent Supreme Court case held that the foetus is not ‘constitutionally invisible’ without the 8th Amendment. There is a balance to be struck between protecting foetal life and protecting women’s rights and without the 8th it is the Oireachtas that would decide where that balance lies.
Doctors in Ireland every day fight to preserve life, including foetal life, but the problem with the 8th is that it gets the balance completely wrong. If a medical problem develops during pregnancy a doctor cannot act to protect the health and wellbeing of the pregnant woman unless her life is at real and substantial risk. But doctors need to have the clinical flexibility to balance respect for prenatal life with their obligation to preserve women’s health and respect her private reasons for opting not to continue a pregnancy. This is what the legislative proposal does: it recognises that the state’s interest in prenatal life increases after 12 weeks of pregnancy, and includes safeguards that reflect this, strictly limiting abortion once the protected period has passed.
The restrictions include:
- A woman will only be able to access abortion care without a specific indication for up to 12 weeks in consultation with her doctor.
- There will be 72 hour mandatory waiting period, to give the woman time to consider her options and ensure this is the right decision
- Every abortion will happen under medical supervision.
- After this initial period, women will only be allowed access to abortion to protect the woman’s health and in cases of fatal foetal anomaly.
- There will be no late term abortions after a developing baby reaches viability, that is the capacity to survive outside the womb, at around 23 or 24 weeks of pregnancy.