So we're on the verge of repealing the Eighth, but what next? All your questions answered…
IRELAND is on the verge of repealing the Eighth Amendment but the country is still some distance from the point where abortion up to 12 weeks into a pregnancy is actually legal.
Even though President Michael D Higgins will be able to sign the relevant order to repeal the Eighth Amendment in the coming days, the Dáil has to pass the much-talked about abortion legislation.
Health Minister Simon Harris has already produced the General Scheme of the Bill – but No campaigners have indicated this morning that they intend to carefully scrutinise every word of the legislation.
The Government plans to introduce the legislation before July and have a target of getting it passed by the end of the year. However, some opposing politicians have already indicated they will attempt to delay its progression through the Dáil and Seanad.
Until then the existing Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act will continue to be the law of the land.
So have we voted for abortion on demand?
The Health Minister argued during the campaign that the legislation will allow safe, regulated and medically supervised termination of pregnancy.
* Termination will be available where a GP has certified that the pregnancy has not exceeded 12 weeks; that is 10 weeks after conception. A woman will not have to give a reason for why she wants an abortion at this stage.
* A period of 72 hours will have to elapse between the certification and the termination being carried out. This is to allow for a woman to make a considered decision after discussing all the options with her doctor. It would also allow a doctor to refer the woman for a scan if it is clinically determined to be necessary.
* It is envisaged that the medical practitioner would provide any follow up care that is required.
Constituencies with the strongest Yes/No vote
The table below shows the top five constituencies with the strongest vote for or against repealing the Eighth Amendment.
Dublin Bay South 78.49% 21.51%
Dún Laoghaire 77.06% 22.94%
Dublin Fingal 76.96% 23.04%
Dublin Central 76.51% 23.49%
Dublin Rathdown 76.10% 23.90%
Donegal 48.13% 51.87%
What happens after 12 weeks?
* The Government's proposed legislation will permit termination of pregnancy in cases where there is a risk to the life, or of serious harm to the health of, the pregnant woman, without a distinction between risk from physical or mental health. Such ‘serious harm’ must go well beyond the expected and common complications of pregnancy, and other common chronic conditions that may be exacerbated by pregnancy.
* Two medical practitioners will have to certify that in their reasonable opinion (a) there is a risk to the life or of serious harm to the health of the pregnant woman, (b) the foetus has not reached viability and (c) the termination of pregnancy is appropriate to avert the risk. One of the medical practitioners would have to be obstetrician and the other a medical practitioner appropriate to the clinical circumstances of the case. The procedure would have to be carried out by an obstetrician.
* Once foetus reaches viability there will be an onus on doctors to deliver the baby. The definition of viability proposed is the point in a pregnancy at which, in the reasonable opinion of a medical practitioner, the foetus is capable of sustained survival outside the uterus.
*Simon Harris has said the requirement to certify that the foetus has not reached viability is an effective ban on later term abortions. If viability is established and the pregnancy is ended on health grounds then it will be done through early delivery, with a full medical team on hand.
What about emergencies?
* The Government's proposed legislation also makes provision for access to termination of pregnancy on an emergency basis, in line with the process in the existing Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill. That will cover situations in which the risk to the life or of serious harm to the health of the pregnant woman is immediate.
What about fatal foetal abnormalities?
* The legislation proposes to permit termination of pregnancy on the grounds of a condition which is likely to lead to the death of the foetus before or shortly after birth. In these cases, two appropriate medical practitioners will be involved in the assessment.
Will abortion be free?
It is envisaged abortion will be made available in the public health service. This will mean that women will still have to pay in order to visit a doctor, or a clinic, outside the public hospital setting, unless they have a medical card. They will also have to pay for medical abortion pills unless they have a medical card.
It is envisaged that women getting later abortions, due to health problems or because they are carrying babies with fatal foetal abnormalities, will already be in receipt of care from our public maternity services and so will be able to access public hospitals.