On Tuesday, Ireland’s president, Michael D. Higgins, signed into law legislation amending the Constitution to remove constitutional protection for the unborn, following May’s constitutional referendum. A couple of predictably ineffectual legal challenges had delayed this.
The way is now open for abortion legislation. Minister for Health Simon Harris says that the government will aim to enact a law by the beginning of 2019 at the latest.
Medical Council guidelines will reflect the new law in due course.
The government’s draft legislation is currently being discussed in the parliamentary Health Committee. Apparently the proposed three-day waiting period is going to stay, even though it was attacked by Dr Peter Boylan, of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, as “demeaning” and making “presumptions about women’s ability to make decisions about their own healthcare”.
One controversial aspect of the legislation is conscientious objection by healthcare workers and other staff who object to abortion.
Head 15 of the bill affirms the right of a “medical practitioner, nurse or midwife” to refuse to participate. However, it also declares that they must “as soon as may be, make such arrangements for the transfer of care of the pregnant woman concerned as may be necessary to enable the woman to avail of the termination of pregnancy concerned.” In other words, they must refer women to a willing doctor.
Some people are lobbying for even more radical versions of the bill. Lawyers for Choice have called for complete decriminalisation of abortion, the replacement of ‘woman" with "pregnant person" or "woman or pregnant person"; and the establishment of “exclusion zones” around abortion clinics.
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