Tonight the Irish Government will vote on what many have dubbed the abortion bill – or officially the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013 – which intends to provide legislation for the provision of medical abortions when the mother’s life is at risk due to medical emergencies or due to suicidal thoughts.
It has caused a great who-ha amongst a minority of right-wing conservative Catholics. Europe and America may be looking on with vague interest at ‘the last stronghold of pro-lifers in the West’, but let me tell you: this bill has nothing to do with abortion as we know it in the UK and as it is feared in Ireland. Women’s rights to body autonomy will still be mired here, whether or not this bill goes through.
In a country where young girls and women have been forced to fly to the UK to obtain abortions – adding unnecessary trauma, cost and health risks to the procedure – the bill presents the minimal and most basic step forwards for women. It offers legal clarity for doctors and will hopefully prevent another needless death like Savita Halappanavar’s or another horrendous experience like that of the 14-year-old suicidal rape-victim in the ‘X-case’.
However, the bill also enables those nurses who are against abortions to opt out – unless in an emergency. If a woman becomes suicidal, she will have to prove it to two psychiatrists and a women’s obstetrician – imagine having to prove that you want to kill yourself, in that darkest moment of need? Finally, the bill legislates for the incarceration of any woman who intentionally destroys a human life outside of these circumstances…
It is an utter embarrassment that a bill that still demonises those who seek abortions, still traumatises those in need and still threatens those brave enough to stand up for their rights is being paraded as a political show of strength by Taoiseach Enda Kenny. It may be a shuffle forwards at least, but it is certainly no feat to be proud of. Do us a solid Enda and man up to the issue of abortion alone. Free Irish women from the tyranny of an outdated, patriarchal system that needlessly traps women by restricting their body autonomy.