‘Barbaric’ prison sentence for illegal abortion to appease Bill’s opponents, Seanad told

Politicians vote with conscience to stop pregnant women acting on theirs - Zappone

Katherine Zappone: said the law would continue to criminalise women who could not afford to travel even if they decided to terminate and follow their conscience

Katherine Zappone: said the law would continue to criminalise women who could not afford to travel even if they decided to terminate and follow their conscience

Wed, Jul 17, 2013, 09:17



The 14-year prison term for an illegal termination is being introduced to “appease” people opposed to the abortion legislation and is no way to determine the proper sanction, the Seanad has heard.

Jillian van Turnhout (Ind) described the 14 years and unlimited fine as “barbaric” and said it would ensure the “chilling effect” of 152-year-old legislation, the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act, would be carried forward.

“I find it very hard to envisage that any court would see fit to sentence a 15-year-old child to 14 years’ imprisonment for bringing about the termination of an unwanted pregnancy.”

Speaking during the debate on the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill, she said: “Let’s be honest. It’s a way of appeasing people who are opposed to the Bill, those who would be opposed, no matter how it is drafted, because they are fundamentally opposed to the principle.”

The 14-year sentence “says to them ‘don’t worry. If anyone deviates from the strict limits set out in this law we will bear down on them with an iron fist’.”

Complex issue
The Taoiseach’s nominee said it was no way “to determine an appropriate sentence for a transgression of the law or such a complex issue involving vulnerable, scared and desperate women and girls”.

Taoiseach’s nominee Katherine Zappone said the law would continue to criminalise women who could not afford to travel even if they decided to terminate and follow their conscience.

She added: “There is a great irony in politicians arguing they must follow their conscience in legislating with which I agree, but that they want a law which prohibits a pregnant woman from following hers.”

Terry Leyden (FF) said the Bill contained no conscientious objection provision for other hospital staff including porters and administrative clerks who would lose their job if they refused to co-operate.

“They are being forced if this Bill goes through . . to co-operate on the abortion of a viable child.”