We are asking people to vote Yes so we can remove the harmful Eighth Amendment from our Constitution and end the dangers it has created for women's healthcare in Ireland. The Eighth Amendment damages women's health and on rare occasions has directly contributed to a woman's death, as in the tragic case of Savita Halappanavar.
Currently, if a pregnant woman needs to end her pregnancy to protect her health, or for any other reason, she must do this without the care of her own doctor and travel to another country. More than 1,500 women are also ordering abortion pills online every year. This happens in secret because of the criminalisation of abortion and is therefore unregulated, with no medical support. This is the reality of abortion in Ireland in 2018.
Nothing can be done to end these harms unless we remove the Eighth from our Constitution. The Constitution is too blunt an instrument to regulate a woman’s decision about her crisis pregnancy.
If we remove the Eighth Amendment we can provide the support of the law to pregnant women and their doctors and ensure that complex medical questions can be dealt with in a safe and nuanced way. We can put in place a higher aspiration than simply making sure women are alive at the end of their pregnancies. If complications arise during a pregnancy a woman can make decisions about her own healthcare, with the support of her doctor and family. She can decide how much risk she, her partner and any children can bear in order to continue with her pregnancy.
Most people support abortion for women who have become pregnant as a result of rape if that is what the women concerned decide. But it is unethical and legally unworkable to force a rape victim to disclose that she has been raped in order to access abortion. It would risk retraumatising her at a time of great vulnerability. Allowing a woman who has been raped up to 12 weeks to access an abortion will provide her with the time and support she needs. Medical abortions, through the use of abortion pills, are possible up to 12 weeks. For a woman who needs an abortion before 12 weeks of pregnancy, she will have to visit her doctor, who will certify that she is no more than 12 weeks pregnant, and she will take a three-day reflection period.
We have all found ourselves deeply moved by stories of women and couples who faced a devastating diagnosis of fatal foetal anomaly and then found themselves abandoned by our healthcare system when they chose to end the pregnancy. Attorneys general have clearly said that terminations of pregnancy in cases of fatal foetal anomaly cannot be provided with the Eighth Amendment in place. The only way to provide appropriate care in Ireland to couples in these tragic circumstances is to change our Constitution.
If we do not remove the Eighth Amendment from the Constitution nothing can change, and the harms to women’s health will continue. By voting Yes we can finally deal with the reality that abortion happens in Ireland, and ensure that we can care for and support women in Ireland who need it.
Ailbhe Smyth, Orla O'Connor and Grainne Griffin are the co-ordinators of the Together for Yes campaign