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Proposed abortion law is in no way restrictive: Iona Institute

By Sarah Mac Donald - 28 March, 2018

The Iona Institute has warned that the Government’s proposed abortion law will, to all intents and purposes, permit abortion-on-demand.

In a statement issued on Tuesday evening in response to Minister Simon Harris’ announcement that the Cabinet had approved the main points of the proposed legislation which will be tabled if the referendum on the Eighth Amendment is passed, the Iona Institute said the abortion law being proposed is in no real way restrictive and in practice would mean very few women being refused an abortion in Ireland.

Earlier on Tuesday, Minister for Health Simon Harris said the Government proposed unrestricted abortion where a medical practitioner has certified that the pregnancy has not exceeded 12 weeks.

A space of seventy-two hours must elapse between an application for an abortion and the abortion procedure being carried out.

Minister Harris said that abortion would only be available in exceptional circumstances beyond 12 weeks. This includes where there is a risk to the health or life of the mother, in emergency situations and in cases of fatal foetal abnormality.

He said in all other circumstances abortion would remain unlawful.

In cases where there was a risk to the life or health of a woman, abortion would not be lawful “beyond viability” and the pregnancy would be ended through early delivery with a full medical team.

In their statement, the Iona Institute said the safeguards being proposed following 12 weeks would be no more effective than they are in Britain.

Commenting on the draft law, Maria Steen of the Iona Institute said, “It is misleading on the part of our Health Minister, and the Government, to imply this law would be restrictive. They know perfectly well that the proposed law is even more radical in almost every respect than the British law, which permits abortion, effectively on demand.”

Ms Steen added that it was “doubly misleading” to describe what is being proposed as ‘healthcare’.

“In the first 12 weeks of pregnancy no medical reason for abortion whatsoever need be offered. Perfectly healthy women will be aborting perfectly healthy babies. How is this ‘healthcare’? It is the opposite, and a total inversion of medicine.”

“We are confident the Irish people will see through the Government’s spin and see that what is being proposed is, in fact, a very radical abortion law that offers the unborn child no real legal protection. Without the Eighth Amendment, there will be nothing to prevent this or any future Oireachtas from enacting even more extreme abortion laws. For this reason, we trust that the electorate will, in the end, vote to keep the pro-life amendment,” Maria Steen said.

Meanwhile, the Pro Life Campaign has said the Government’s proposals on abortion are “way more extreme than Britain’s, where 1 in 5 pregnancies now end in abortion.”

Dr Ruth Cullen of the Pro Life Campaign said, “Every day between now and the referendum the Government will try to convince voters that its proposal is reasonable and even restrictive. But the truth is what’s being proposed is one of the most extreme abortion laws anywhere in the world, including the proposal for unrestricted access to abortion up to three months in pregnancy, a provision that goes much further than what the English law currently permits.”

Dr Cullen continued, “The Government’s abortion proposal effectively sets the rights of unborn babies at zero. Government ministers know full well too that if the Eighth Amendment were repealed there is no guarantee that even the proposed restrictions on late-term abortions would last any length of time.”

“The Taoiseach, the Minister for Health and others in government have totally abandoned the rights of unborn babies. They should stop pretending otherwise with insertions here and there to the Bill that are utterly meaningless and would do nothing whatsoever to safeguard the right to life.”

“It’s extremely heartening though that the public are starting to see through what’s going on, as evidenced by recent opinion polls. This Government can package its proposal any way it wants but that won’t change the sad and tragic fact that repeal equals abortion on demand and nothing else.”

The Pro Life Campaign also said that the Tánaiste Simon Coveney had brought the issue of trusting politicians to the front and centre of the debate after becoming the latest politician who in the space of just a few weeks has entirely changed his position on the kind of abortion regime he supports.

Commenting on the Tánaiste’s latest position in favour of unrestricted abortion up to three months in pregnancy, PLC spokesperson Cora Sherlock said, “If someone like Minister Coveney can change his mind in a matter of weeks, it brings the question of trust in politicians to the front and centre of the debate because if we were to repeal the Eighth Amendment, politicians would be given a blank cheque to make whatever laws they wanted with regard to making abortion more widely available and the public would never again have a chance to have their say on protecting the right to life at its fragile beginnings.”

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