Clare Daly and Barry Martin are both strong and active advocates of Free Safe and Legal abortion. They both support a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion regardless of the circumstances. Barry and Clare both demand that the Eighth Amendment be repealed immediately, and they strongly condemn the criminal sanctions that exist in the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act 2014, which affects primarily working class women with little access to money to travel. These pieces of legislation must be removed immediately in order to allow women access to their own bodily autonomy without restrictions.
Clare has been active on this issue for many years and has attempted to introduce two pieces of legislation tackling a woman’s right to choose during her time in the Dail. The most recent bill was focused on allowing termination in case of Foetal Fatal Abnormality and was supported and guided by TFMR (Terminations for Medical Reasons). Both of these bills were voted down by opposing parties. Meanwhile, there has been no meaningful action taken by any government to deal with the issue, and women’s demands have been consistently ignored by those in government. There is a huge gulf between the reality on the ground and the nature of the debates within the Dáil, resulting in tragic victims of our laws.
One of the most archaic laws restricting women from attaining abortions is Article 40.3.3 in the Constitution, otherwise known as the Eighth Amendment, which has been in effect since 1983. It says:
“The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.”
The Eighth Amendment equates the life of a foetus to the life of the mother; this has had fatal consequences for women in Ireland ever since its introduction into law. Article 40.3.3 discriminates against women, in particular women in poverty, or living on low incomes, and asylum seeking and undocumented women, who cannot travel freely to other states.
In 2014, the Government enacted the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act following Savita Hallappanavar’s death. This act failed to do what it said it would do. It does not give pregnant suicidal women access to a legal abortion in Ireland as they are lawfully entitled. This law in fact made things worse for women in Ireland, who now face up to 14 years in prison for ordering and taking the abortion pill online.
Currently, a woman can either travel outside of the state for an abortion in a country where it is legal or be forced to break the law and order abortion pills online. Under the Protection of Life Act, women can only receive an abortion in Ireland if their life is deemed at risk. In other words, in Ireland, you need to be nearly dead to receive bodily autonomy.
At present, women have few options, and working class women have even fewer. For those who cannot afford to travel, take the time off work, or find someone to mind their children, it leaves them with the prospects of ordering the pills online, which is heavily criminalised.
Leading health and human rights organisations have argued against Irelands archaic laws on abortion. The UN Committee last August stated that they had a severe concern about the restricted circumstances in which women can have an abortion due to the Eighth Amendment. They expressed concern at the following; criminalising the activity and lack of legal clarity, excess scrutiny for doctors, an interference with the medical profession, discrimination against those that can’t afford to travel and adding to the mental suffering of female citizens. They required us to revise our legislation including our constitution to take account of circumstances where women require an abortion in circumstances such as rape, incest, and foetal fatal abnormalities. The World Health Organisation condemns the criminalisation of abortion and have consistently criticised Ireland’s restrictive abortion laws. Amnesty International is also calling for a Repeal of the Eighth Amendment along with USI, and many student unions across the country.
Women in Ireland deserve more than this. Not a single person of present reproductive age has had a chance to vote on the Eighth Amendment. They deserve the chance to be trusted with their own decisions and to be granted bodily autonomy. The current laws do nothing to protect women and only serve to control access to choice, health and human rights. We have seen the consequences of restrictive abortion law. It is beyond time that the Eight Amendment is repealed. Abortion must be made free, safe, and legal in Ireland. The criminal sanctions must be removed.
Clare and Barry strongly believe that no woman should be denied access to her own bodily autonomy, and should receive access to this vital health service without imposed restrictions.