What’s the current Irish law on abortion?
Abortion is illegal in Ireland unless the woman’s life is at real and substantial risk. That means it’s not even legal in cases of rape, child sexual abuse or incest, or where the foetus has a fatal abnormality. Back in the early 1980s, pro-lifers in Ireland were afraid that their country’s courts might follow the example of Roe vs Wade in the US and lift restrictions on abortion. So they pushed for an amendment to the constitution which would give the foetus a “right to life” that was equal to that of the mother. The amendment was passed by a referendum in 1983, with a majority of 67 per cent.
What’s the penalty for having an abortion?
Currently, anyone in Ireland found guilty of procuring an abortion faces a prison sentence of 14 years. Even women taking abortion pills risk 14 years in prison.
What’s this week’s referendum about?
A “yes” vote would repeal the amendment to the constitution. That would mean that the government could make abortion legal. The proposed legislation would allow abortion on request up until the 12th week of pregnancy. Abortion would be allowed after the 12th week if the foetus had a fatal abnormality or if the woman’s health was at risk of serious harm.
What happens currently when girls and women in Ireland want an abortion?
Every year, more than 3000 girls and women head to the UK to have an abortion there. Another 1500 take abortion pills, which they’ve illegally bought online, without supervision. Around two to three per cent of those who take pills develop medical problems – for example, if they have an ectopic pregnancy but aren’t aware of it.