Proposed jail sentence for women who have an abortion is self-righteous and hypocritical
Deputies may be voting for law while hoping there is no prospect of its implementation
If the current legislation is passed without amendment, the Oireachtas will be stating, in effect, that taking the abortifacient pill, mifepristone, in the very early stages of a pregnancy (it only works in the first nine weeks) is a truly hideous offence, as bad as, if not worse than, gang rape or stabbing someone to death. If TDs really believe this, fair enough - so long as they think clearly about what they’re doing and have the courage to follow through on its implications.
Firstly, they have to understand that putting into law the idea that taking mifepristone is among the most serious of criminal offences has stark implications for current Irish medical practice. The State, through the HSE, currently supports or provides post-abortion medical services across the country. These services include “free, non-judgemental” follow-up treatment for women who have used mifepristone to abort an early pregnancy. Public hospitals like Portiuncula in Ballinasloe and Mayo General in Castlebar are among those who provide this service. Surely, under the proposed legislation, these hospitals cannot be “non- judgemental” about what the Oireachtas will have defined as an appalling crime.
There is, of course, another possibility. It is that the branding of women who take the abortion pill as outrageous criminals is purely symbolic. Maybe our legislators fully understand the hypocrisy of defining a crime by the location in which it is committed. Maybe they know that it is ludicrous to declare an act a terrible crime while also facilitating those who commit it. And maybe the legislation has one of those secret clauses: “But for Jaysus sake, lads, don’t even think about implementing this law.”
Maybe this is yet another case of declaring holy Ireland’s unique righteousness on abortion while hoping that everybody understands that we don’t actually want to do anything about it. (Sure, hasn’t that worked out so well for us in the past?) And maybe we still have a legislature with such little self-respect that it passes laws with its fingers crossed behind its back.