Proposed abortion law ‘follows best legal and medical practice’

Irish legislation cannot be described as being ‘like the abortion law in Britain’, says expert

The proposed abortion law in Ireland which will come in if the Eighth Amendment is repealed will be much more restrictive than the law in Britain, a legal expert has said.

Fiona De Londras, Professor of Global Legal Studies at the University of Birmingham, said there is no provision for unrestricted abortion up to six months under the proposed Irish law except in extreme circumstances.

What is proposed“cannot properly be described as anything like the abortion law in Britain”, she said, and instead “follows best legal and medical practice” internationally.

Abortion will not be allowed "in any circumstances" once the foetus reaches viability and will be allowed only after 12 weeks in certain defined circumstances, she said.


These circumstances involve a situation where two doctors consider a serious risk posed to the life or health of the pregnant woman.

One of those doctors will have to be an obstetrician. She suggested that this provides a level of legal oversight not present in many other jurisdictions.

The third example of when abortion will be allowed is where there is a fatal foetal abnormality and the child will not survive up to or long after birth.

She said two doctors will have to certify not only that there is a serious risk to the life or the health of the mother, but also that the foetus is not viable.

“In terms of grounds, time limits and process, what is proposed in Ireland could under no circumstances be described as unrestricted abortion,” she said.

Prof de Londras was invited to speak at a press conference organised by Fine Gael’s Together for Yes campaign.


Fine Gael campaign co-ordinator Josepha Madigan said there had been a "deliberate attempt to obfuscate and confuse people". She said Prof De Londras was there to "debunk the myths" propagated by the No campaign.

Prof De Londras said the law allowing unrestricted abortion up to 12 weeks in Ireland would “not be an unusually liberal law” by international standards.

It would be, she said, the “only workable way” in which to ensure abortion care would be practically available to women who have suffered rape or sexual violence.

The 12-week rule would allow for women to focus on the decision as to whether or not to have an abortion rather than on the logistics of having to travel to the UK to have one, she added.

The proposed law also allows for a three-day waiting period from consultation with a doctor to the time that an abortion would be available.

She said the 12-week rule was not only recommended by the Citizens' Assembly, but was also the most common period across the 36 countries in Europe which have such a similar approach in early pregnancy.

"The legalisation of abortion on these grounds more often than not leads to a reduction in rates of abortion. We see that, for example, in Portugal, Spain and Switzerland, " she said.

Prof De Londras said there is no provision in the proposed Irish law which allows for abortion on the grounds of disability.

"There is no basis on which to argue that there should be anything analogous to anything that happens in England where there is a disability ground without time limits".

She was asked if mental health grounds will lead to abortion on request up to six months. She responded by stating that it is grounds for abortion in the UK, but not in Ireland where there will have to be a “serious risk to health” and an appropriate medial practitioner* will have to be involved.

*The last paragraph of this article was amended on May 3rd, 2018. The word psychiatrist replaced as it was not used by Prof De Londras

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times