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This is the law that Labour wants to replace the 8th Amendment

The legislation would allow for terminations on four grounds.

25/11/2015. Pictured are Chairperson of the Labour Chairperson of the Labour Women Commission on Repeal of the 8th Amendment Dr Mary Henry, Chairperson of Labour Women Sinead Ahern, and Senator Ivana Bacik Source: Leah Farrell/

LABOUR WOMEN HAS revealed legislation they hope will replace the 8th Amendment if it is repealed.

It comes as the topic of abortion looks to form a key part of Labour’s general election campaign, with the party intending to hold a referendum on the issue if returned to government.

They believe the public will only be willing to repeal the 8th Amendment and decriminalise abortion if there is “clear” legislation lined up to replace it.

Senator Ivana Bacik said the General Scheme of Repeal the 8th Amendment Bill is more conservative than what some of those in the campaign would like to see, but she believes it ‘best expresses the will of the public according to successive opinion polls’.

“We say there should be no text in the constitution dealing with abortion,” Bacik said.

The constitution is no place to regulate this difficult and sensitive issue.

The legislation would allow for terminations on grounds of:

  • Risk to life
  • Risk to health
  • Rape
  • Fatal foetal abnormality.

Doctors will need to demonstrate a “a real and substantial risk” in cases of abortion carried out due to a risk to health, with strict tests for any terminations past the first trimester.

It builds on existing laws, and contains a guiding principle of:

Sustaining embryonic and foetal life in pregnancy should be recognised as an important social role which should be voluntary and consensual.

Labour Women explain that the party will repeal existing laws that criminalise women and their doctors and it will provide protection for those offering and accessing legal abortion services.

Senator Bacik emphasised that this will need to be in place due to the “significant culture change” enacting this legislation would cause.

Also involved in drafting the legislation was Dr Peter Boylan, who said his own views have changed dramatically over his 40-year career.

While initially very conservative, he changed his opinion after hearing womens’ stories of the “tragedies they were involved in.”

Speaking about the 8th Amendment, he said:

I think it has been a disaster really for Irish women in the last 40 years.

“Nobody under the age of 50 was able to vote in the last referendum, and so the current group of women coming through their pregnancies, and younger women obviously, have had no say at all on the law in relation to the termination of pregnancies.

That’s not a very democratic approach to things.

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He also explained the importance of legislating for terminations in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities:

“On a first pregnancy, sometimes these couples will say they want to have this baby. We as obstetricians support them in that choice. We carry them through their pregnancy.”

We do scans, they’ve often named the baby, they sometimes knit little hats and gloves for the baby. And then the baby is born, and we look after them, and we then have the concept of palliative care for those newborns babies, and they die, in their parents’ arms.
But these often are not single events, they sometimes reoccur. And what has struck me very forcefully over the years is that women and couples who will go through it the first time, but when it happens again, they just say ‘I can’t do this’, and they’ll go and have a termination.

“We need to respect couples’ choices and be not judgemental,” Boylan added.

In a statement released after the launch of the proposed legislation, the Pro-Life Campaign accused Labour of attempting to “run and hide and ignore the grave injustice that abortion involves and its long-lasting effects”.

“The thing that stands out about today’s launch by the Labour Party is the complete absence of any mention of the unborn child’s right to life the devastating effects of abortion on many women or the pressures that some parents are coming under to abort their baby when he or she is diagnosed with a life-limiting condition,” deputy chairperson Cora Sherlock said.

Read: Leading Irish doctors call for abortion to be decriminalised >

About the author:

Nicky Ryan

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