MEPs express concern at ‘restrictive aspects’ of Irish abortion legislation

Strasbourg politicians say proposed Bill puts women’s lives at risk

Thu, May 16, 2013, 16:24

A group of visiting MEPs has expressed concern at the "restrictive aspects" of the proposed legislation on abortion here.

Four members of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left attended a press briefing in Dublin today, hosted by the pro-choice group Action on X.

Mikael Gustafsson, a member of Sweden's Left Party, said he was surpised that woman's health was subject to so much legislation. "We need to ask, who's health and who's life are we protecting?"

Mr Gustafsson, who also chairs the Women's Rights and Gender Equality Committee of the European Parliament, said he also found it worrying that the Bill was "actually stopping women from getting access to healthcare and putting women's lives at risk".

He said the introduction of abortion legislation in Sweden in 1975 had not led to an increase in the rate of abortion, contrary to claims at the time that it would be used as a form of contraception.

"We need to acknowledge that women will have abortions anyway, instead of criminalising them we have to make sure that women can do this in safe way, without putting their lives in danger," Mr Gustafsson said.

The Government’s Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill proposes to legalise abortion where there is a threat to the life of the mother because of the threat of suicide.

German MEP Sabine Loesing said: "At all times in history women have sought and got abortions, no matter if it was legal or not."

"Women with money can buy services. If abortion is not legal, or performed by doctors, the risks to women's health and lives are high."

Ms Loesing, who is a member of Germany's Die Linke party, said: "The minimum is for legalisation to permit real access to abortion where pregnancy poses a risk to a women's life, and where the foetus has a fatal abnormalitiy and cannot survive."

Portuguese MEP Alda Sousa said: "A law that makes a criminal of a woman who has an abortion stops womens seeking the services they need and forces them to go abroad in secret."

Ms Sousa, who is a member of Portugal's Left Bloc, said such a law was contrary to human rights, "as it deeply harms women's lives."

"We hope that today's lawmakers will break from the laws of the past and ensure women can get abortions safetly and legally."

Fellow Portuguese MEP Inez Zuber insisted that access to abortion and right of women to choosehad become a class issue as it did not effect all women eqeually.

Irish MEP Paul Murphy said the internetional experience was "very clear", restrictive abortion regimes did not mean less abortions, and they put women's health and lives in danger.

He said the Government's draft abortion legislation was not a reflection of public opinion in Ireland but "a pandering to the reactionary elements within Fine Gael. "

Sinead Kennedy of Action on X said the group was calling for the removal of the threat of a criminal conviction and 14 years in prison for women who had an abortion in Ireland outside the restrictions of the proposed legislation.