United Left Alliance Statement

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Women's Rights

Legislate for X

Repeal 1861 Act now

Repeal 8th Amendment to Constitution

The ULA welcomes the government’s declaration that legislation for the X Case ruling of the Supreme Court in 1992, despite a delay of twenty years, will finally be brought in next year. There is no need to delay however, in the repeal of Sections 58 and 59 of the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act. This piece of repressive law, retained from the time of British rule, makes abortion a criminal act with severe penalties for women and doctors. We call for the immediate repeal of this legislation.

The government must now move swiftly to legalise abortion where continuing a pregnancy would put a woman’s life at risk, as required by the X Case ruling. The legislation must include full recognition that the risk of suicide is as significant as any other risk to life arising from pregnancy – as recognised by the Supreme Court and by the majority of mental health practitioners.

It is time, however, to also recognise the many reasons why thousands of Irish women have abortions every year. The vast majority of the population agree that a risk to the health of a woman should be grounds for the right to an abortion. The majority also think a woman should be able to terminate a pregnancy arising from rape or incest, or where the foetus has a fatal abnormality. Many think that it should be up to a woman, in consultation with her doctor, to decide if she should continue with a pregnancy. We support all of these arguments – which give women the choice.

The Dáil should act in line with these views and with the need for women to be treated equally with men in their rights to healthcare. A man is not denied treatment if his health is at risk. But the 8th Amendment to our Constitution denies abortion even where a pregnancy would ruin a woman’s physical or mental health. That oppressive inequality must end. The 8th Amendment must be repealed. It is time to face the reality that now, when many women are struggling to feed themselves and their children, the need for free, safe, legal abortion in Ireland is more urgent than ever.