The Bill to regulate the provision of abortion in Ireland passed the final stage of the Dáil on December 5th.
The Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018 establishes the procedures that women and medical professionals must follow when carrying out an abortion. It also repeals certain acts such as the Regulation of Information (Services Outside the State for Termination of Pregnancies) Act 1995 which allowed doctors and counsellors to provide information to pregnant women about getting a legal abortion outside of Ireland.
The Bill states that an abortion may be carried out if there is a risk to the life or health of a pregnant woman, there is a condition which will prevent the foetus from reaching viability or lead to the death of the baby within the first 28 days after birth, or if the pregnancy has not exceeded 12 weeks. This early pregnancy section follows the recommendations made by the Citizen’s Assembly.
There was a heated debate between the ‘Pro-Life’ and ‘Pro-Choice’ TDs in the Dáil over whether parental consent is needed in cases involving pregnant girls under 16. Peadar Toíbín TD put forward an amendment which would require a parent to receive a copy of the medical practitioner’s certification for approving the abortion between 24 and 72 hours before the procedure depending on the case.
Ruth Coppinger TD argued that many pregnancies under the age of 16 are cases of a girl being raped by her father and allowing parental consent would ‘open the way for the rapist to have a veto over the right of a girl to have an abortion’.
Minister for Health Simon Harris told the Dáil that legislation requiring parental consent for children under 16 for any medical procedure was already in place and that any further amendments were unnecessary. The guidelines provided by the Medical Council allow for a minor to refuse parental consent if the doctor judges that it is in the minor’s best interests.
The Bill will need to pass through all five stages of the Seanad before it is signed into law.