A chara, – There is much dispute about the mandatory three-day waiting period between the certification required under Article 12 of the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018 and the carrying out of the termination, when the pregnancy has not exceeded 12 weeks.
Some argue that there is no other medical procedure where such a delay is required. It is the case, however, that there is no other legal medical procedure which is intended to end the life of a foetus – this is how termination of pregnancy is defined in the legislation. While no pregnant woman takes such a decision lightly, the three-day waiting period clearly tries to ensure that she is not unduly pressured by circumstances, or by any other person, in the decision on her options.
All legislation lays down conditions and limits, whether in building regulations or journalism or driving or conduct of business, and causes trouble for those who come up against those limits. Where the three-day wait would bring her beyond the 12-week limit, perhaps an agreeable solution would be to legislate that the initial certification be within the 12 weeks, even if the following three-day wait would go beyond it. It would retain what is valuable in the waiting period. This, of course, would not satisfy those who wish to abolish all limits to termination of pregnancy.
What I find extraordinary, however, is that the review of the legislation still does not address a primary factor in health care: to seek first to reduce the incidences where medical intervention is required. In the nature of things, there will always be incidences of crisis pregnancy – this we cannot change. We can, however, work to reduce the number of cases. We do this in many other spheres by addressing the various determinants of health. There is much advice on life-style, exercise, drinking, smoking, safe working and recreation, and other matters in the control of the individual.
There are also, however, circumstances beyond the individual: living conditions, environment, poverty, conditions of employment or education, etc. Such socio-economic factors are what the Oireachtas Committee on the repeal of the Eighth Amendment stated are the majority of reasons behind seeking abortion. Maternity care in Ireland has a good record by international standards, and yet we still neglect these factors. The fact that the number of abortions shot up to 8,500 in 2022 may indicate how the rise in cost of living affects the economic position of a pregnant woman and her family. Why did so many see abortion as their only or best option?
We rightly expend serious resources on matters such as missing persons, the Kerry baby, support for independent living for those with special needs. Why not also guarantee that a woman in any crisis pregnancy can be sure that abortion is not her only way out? If we do all we can to facilitate abortion while failing to ensure that other options are a realistic possibility in all crisis pregnancies, we make a mockery of the idea of “pro-choice”. Rather, we ensure that for many women, abortion is the one and only choice. – Is mise,