Ireland’s abortion bill is misogynistic, group says

The Guardian, DUBLIN

Fri, May 03, 2013 - Page 7

Ireland’s draft abortion legislation is offensive and misogynistic when it comes to dealing with women seeking terminations because they are suicidal, an international pro-choice organization has said.

There has been a mixed reaction to the protection of life in pregnancy bill, which the Irish Cabinet approved late on Tuesday night.

Under the proposed legislation, three consultants reviewing the case of a woman with suicidal thoughts while pregnant must all agree that a termination should proceed. There is provision for an appeal by the woman to three further consultants if the first trio does not approve the abortion. The appeal panel must also be unanimous in approval for a termination to be granted under law.

However, Johanna Westeson, regional director for Europe at the Centre for Reproductive Rights criticized that part of the bill, saying: “Imposing different standards for assessing threats to life for mental health reasons and threats to life for physical ailments runs contradictory to international medical standards and human rights norms. To suggest that women would fake suicidal tendencies to access abortion is not only deeply offensive and misogynistic, but also in stark violation of women’s human right to be treated with dignity.”

“The more barriers Ireland creates for women seeking legal abortion, the more likely women in crisis situations will opt to travel abroad than subject themselves to this humiliating process that the bill sets forth. This means that Ireland will continue to be in violation of its human rights obligation to make legal abortion accessible in practice,” she said.

Earlier on Wednesday, Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny insisted at a government press briefing that the laws on abortion would not been fundamentally altered if the bill passes the Irish parliament.

“The law on abortion in Ireland is not being changed. Our country will continue to be one of the safest places in the world for childbirth. And the regulation and the clarity that will now become evident through the protection of maternal life bill will continue within the law, to assert the restrictions on abortion that have applied in Ireland and will apply in the future,” Kenny said.

The Irish prime minister added that he was determined to reform the law on abortion without dividing the country.

There are concerns within the main coalition party, Fine Gael, that any changes to the law risks split the party as well.