Reforming abortion law in Ireland

On 10 July, after a two-day debate, Dáil Éireann passed the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013 by 127 votes to 31. Europe minister Lucinda Creighton voted against the Bill, resigned from the Government and was expelled from the Fine Gael parliamentary party.

The Bill’s principal provisions make it lawful to carry out a termination of pregnancy in circumstances where two medical practitioners, one of whom must be an obstetrician, have

“jointly certified in good faith that —

(i) there is a real and substantial risk of loss of the woman’s life from a physical illness, and

(ii) in their reasonable opinion (being an opinion formed in good faith which has regard to the need to preserve unborn human life as far as practicable) that risk can only be averted by carrying out the medical procedure” (Clause 7)

or where three medical practitioners, one of whom must be an obstetrician and the others psychiatrists, conclude that

“there is a real and substantial risk of loss of the woman’s life by way of suicide” (Clause 9).

Except in those circumstances, under the terms of Clause 22

“(1) It shall be an offence to intentionally destroy [sic] unborn human life.

(2) A person who is guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable on indictment to a fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 14 years, or both.

(3) A prosecution for an offence under this section may be brought only by or with the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions”.

The Bill is currently awaiting consideration by the Seanad: further information can be found on the Bill page on the Oireachtas website. Over at the admirable Human Rights in Ireland blog there is a helpful critique by Máiréad Enright, from Kent Law School, of some of the issues raised by the Bill. There is also a useful set of FAQs on the website of


The proposed legislation is a limited response to the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar on which we reported in our roundup on 18 November 2012. But it does not seek to legalise abortions for women pregnant as result of rape or carrying foetuses with fatal abnormalities. Nor does the Bill tackle the issue of implementing the ECtHR’s judgment in A, B and C v Ireland [2010] ECHR 2032 on the provision of abortion in the case of a risk to the life of the pregnant woman.

According to Irish Department of Health figures released on 9 July, in 2012 about 4,000 Irish women travelled to British hospitals and clinics to terminate their pregnancies.

2 thoughts on “Reforming abortion law in Ireland

  1. Pingback: Religion and law round up – 21st July | Law & Religion UK

  2. Pingback: Abortion law in Ireland: the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act | Law & Religion UK

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