Abortion legislation to be tabled

Fri, Feb 17, 2012, 00:00

Legislation to provide for limited access to abortion will be introduced in the Dáil next week.

The legislation, to make abortion legal where there is a “real and substantial risk to the life” of the pregnant woman, will be introduced by Socialist Party TD Clare Daly in private members’ time and will be voted on in the House on April 19th.

Over 60 organisations and individuals - including seven TDs, two Senators, trade unions, academics and doctors - have called for “immediate legislation in line with the 'X' case.”

The "Action on X Alliance" today gave a press briefing to mark the 20th anniversary of the of the High Court injunction that barred a 14-year old girl from travelling to Britain for an abortion. Known as "X", the girl had been raped.

Two days later, amid a public outpouring of sympathy for the girl and anger at the injunction, the Supreme Court ruled abortion was legal where there was a real and substantial threat to the life of the pregnant woman or girl, including suicide.

The girl at the centre of the case miscarried the pregnancy.

Dublin West TD Patrick Nulty, who was expelled from the Labour parliamentary party after voting against the budget, said it was “shameful” that 20 years after the Supreme Court gave its ruling and after two referendums on the issue, six successive Governments had “failed" to act.

“It is unprecedented and has not happened since, that the Supreme Court would give such a clear ruling and that it is not acted on by government," he said.

Orla O’Connor, acting chief executive of the National Women’s Council, described the inaction of governments on the case as a “violation of women’s rights - that they are forced to travel to Britain, over 4,000 every year, to end their pregnancies”.

She said the situation for poor women with crisis pregnancies was “all the more horrific” as “very often they simply don’t have the means to travel”.

Ailbhe Smith, academic and founder of the Feminist Open Forum, had been fighting for abortion rights since the late 1970s.

“I thought at the time, as a young woman, that my country would one day stand by my right as a citizen to access abortion if I needed it. Then later I felt I was fighting for my daughter’s rights. Now it looks that I may be fighting for it for my granddaughter, if I have a granddaughter. And if I have to fight for my great-granddaughter’s rights, I will too.”

The Action on X Alliance is planning a public meeting in the Gresham Hotel, Dublin, on Tuesday evening at 7pm.