Abortion pill penalty 'to remain at 14 years in jail' if no repeal - Harris
THE penalty for taking abortion pills will remain at 14 years imprisonment unless the Eighth Amendment is repealed, the Minister for Health Simon Harris has said.
Under the current legislation dealing with abortion, known as the Pregnancy During Life Bill from 2013, anyone procuring abortion - including doctors - may be liable to a prison sentence of 14 years.
Mr Harris said he had since been given advice by the Attorney General when examining a private members bill which called for the sentence to be reduced to a fine of one euro.
The advice obtained by the Minister for Health was that the penalty of 14 years was legally required because the eighth amendment equated abortion with homicide.
Therefore the crime of abortion could not be decriminalised.
Mr Harris was speaking alongside the masters of two Dublin maternity hospitals, Doctor Rhona Mahony and Professor Fergal Malone who were calling for a ‘Yes’ in the referendum on Friday.
Professor Malone warned about the dangers of women taking unsupervised, illegal abortion tablets.
Around 1500 women a year are taking abortion tablets; and he said 2 – 3 pc of these will run in to medical troubles.
“We’ve had a number of patients [taking abortion tablets] in the Rotunda Hospital who have had an ectopic pregnancy; which is where a pregnancy in the fallopian tube.
The fact that they’re taken tablets without supervision means they won’t have known that their pregnancy was in the tube, and they were putting their health at risk.
“It has delayed their treatment, and we’ve had patients where their fallopian tube has ruptured.”
The result was a “major haemorrhage with major bleeding going on in the abdomen”, he explained.
Doctor Mahoney said “we’ve had many more cases where women have been scared to divulge that they’ve take tablets and have delayed their presentation.”
“And I say to all women: we will care for you.
“Don’t delay if you’re not well.”
“The Eighth Amendment has not prevented abortions; it has merely created a system in which it happens in a dangerous way”, said Rhona Mahony.
“These women are then excluded from our healthcare system”, she said.
And “the message we are giving to women is appalling. That we’re going to lock them up for 14 years in their own country”, she said.
In cases where families decide to terminate the pregnancy due to fatal foetal abnormality, Ms Mahoney said her patients have felt “abandoned and stigmatised”.
“We send them to the UK when there’s a fatal foetal abnormality to a different jurisdiction away from family and friends.
“They have to wait for their babies to come home in a jiffy bag”, after the termination has taken place.