With the referendum looming it’s important to get as much information about the possible outcomes and the legislation that may replace the 8th, before going in to make your vote. I have discussed the possible replacement of the 8th amendment below if it is voted to be repealed on the 25th. If the 8th is repealed, it will mean the Oireachtas will be able to create new legislation, broadening the circumstances within which a pregnant woman can avail of an abortion.
At the moment, the 8th amendment holds the life of the woman and the unborn baby as equal and forbids abortion in most cases. Legislation brought in in 2013, under pressure from the European Court of Human Rights, allowed for 'the protection of life during pregnancy’, which allows abortion in Ireland in very rare cases; including a potential suicidal threat to the woman’s life, and if a woman’s life is at a severe risk unless she has an abortion.
This change was motivated by the deaths of Savita Halappanavar and her baby after contracting septicemia during pregnancy and doctor's being legally unable to perform an abortion. Although this is some kind of allowance of abortion, it is still held in the hands of doctors, to judge whether the life of the woman is threatened enough for her to receive an abortion, and the restrictions around it have led to only around 20 women a year being able to avail of abortion since it was introduced.
If the 8th Amendment is replaced, it will allow for doctors to legally discuss options for the woman in question. It will also allow for regulations to be made by law for termination of pregnancy. This means, the current laws concerning abortions will be discussed, including the 14 year sentence a woman who receives an abortion theoretically faces.
This law will be removed and women will not be criminalised if they receive an abortion. Anyone who performs an abortion outside of the law will still be penalised 14 years of imprisonment.
The proposed changes to the 8th Amendment include;
The new legislation will include regulations on abortions available up to 12 weeks of pregnancy. If a woman wishes to have abortion at this stage, she will be assessed by a medical practitioner and a 72 hour waiting period will be enforced. Once the 72 hours are up the woman will typically be prescribed an abortion pill, with other methods utilised when necessary.
After 12 weeks;
In cases of abortion being administered after 12 weeks, a medical practitioner and an obstetrician will assess the woman in question and her circumstances, and, if there is a serious threat to the mother life, an abortion will be provided under the new legislation. This option will not surpass 24 weeks of pregnancy, when the foetus reaches viability. Viability means, when the baby would be able to survive outside the womb.
There will be no exception for abortions outside 24 weeks apart from if the woman is informed about a fatal foetal abnormality where the foetus will not survive outside the womb, or won’t survive more than a few hours.
Although, abortion is available in very rare circumstances in Ireland at the moment, repealing the Eighth Amendment will finally enable women to have greater bodily autonomy, and allowing them to have a choice on whether they would like to keep their baby in circumstances such as rape and incest.
In Ireland at the moment the woman is expected to carry her baby full term in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities, knowing the baby will not survive outside of the womb. Whether the woman is happy to do so or not, without a doubt the option should be up to her on whether she wishes to carry her baby, or abort the foetus and process it in her way, within the laws and support of her own country and government.
If you would like to read more on the new legislation that may replace the 8th if the Referendum passes, you can do so here.