This blog post of 20 facts was originally compiled by members of the
Parents for Choice Facebook Group, co-ordinated by Sharon Leavy, and
published in April 2017. It has since been amended and updated.
1. Currenly, under the constitution, the life of an embryo is considered equal to, or even greater than, the life of the pregnant person.
2. Abortion is illegal in Ireland unless a woman’s life is at risk – and even then, a woman’s life has to be deemed “at risk enough” by a group of doctors.
3. Children as young as nine have the biological ability to become pregnant. In Ireland, they have no choice but to continue a pregnancy. Girls as young as 12 have become mothers.
4. Over half of those accessing abortion services are already parents. 70% of those accessing abortion care in the UK in 2015 were married or had partners. (Source: Gov UK.)
5. 92% of abortions are carried out before 13 weeks, and 80% of those before ten weeks. (Source: Gov UK.)
6. Nobody under 52 years of age has had the chance to vote on abortion access in Ireland. The majority of women who may need abortion care have had no say.
7. In 2014, on average ten pregnant people travelled from Ireland to Britain every day for abortion care. Due to the secrecy and stigma around abortion in Ireland, there are no numbers available to account for those who travel to other European countries or who procure abortions within Ireland using pills.
8. The option to terminate a pregnancy where there is a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality would take some of the added financial, emotional and mental pressure away from already grieving families. Those with this diagnosis deserve compassionate maternity care at home, surrounded by love and support – whatever decision they make.
9. Banning abortions doesn’t stop them from happening, but it puts women at risk. 47,000 pregnant people die globally every year from unsafe abortion. Abortion will always be needed. Make it legal – make it safe.
10. Abortions after 24 weeks account for only 0.1% of all abortions. They only ever take place for extremely sad and difficult reasons. We don’t spend months being pregnant and then decide on a whim that we no longer want to be pregnant.
11. The option to travel for abortion care is not available to everyone: not to poorer women, migrant women who don’t have the legal status to travel, and those for whom illness or disability prevents travelling. The 8th amendment discriminates.
12. If abortion is only allowed in cases of rape, women will not only have to endure horrific sexual assault, but the onus will then be on them to prove it. Statistics from the courtroom show us that this is next to impossible. 65% of rape survivors who presented themselves to a rape crisis centre in 2015 had not reported their rape to an authority. (Source: Rape Crisis Network Ireland.)
13. The 8th amendment is about more than abortion; it affects our choices and rights in continued pregnancy and birth too. It is cited in the HSE Consent Policy, where it states that there is “significant legal uncertainty” about our right to informed consent or refusal of any intervention in pregnancy and childbirth.
14. A clinically dead woman was kept on life support for three weeks in 2014 simply because she was 15 weeks pregnant at the time of her death, despite her next of kin requesting that her life support be switched off. Her doctors were afraid to make a decision that may have been deemed unconstitutional.
15. The UN’s Human Rights Committee has called on the Irish government to reform its restrictive abortion legislation, after ruling that it subjected a woman – Amanda Mellet – to cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, which violated her human rights by denying her a termination due to fatal foetal abnormality in 2011.
16. The HSE Consent Policy states that the High Court is the final arbiter in what happens to us in our births. Women have been brought to the High Court for refusing treatments or interventions while pregnant – treatments and interventions that were not best practice and not always the best option for the mother or the baby.
17. Abortion is a safe medical procedure, safer than dental surgery and tonsillectomy. It is said to be about 14 times safer for the pregnant person than continued pregnancy and childbirth.
18. More than half of those accessing abortion in UK BPAS clinics in 2016 were using at least one form of contraception when they became pregnant. No contraception is 100% effective.
19. Repealing the 8th amendment will not in itself make abortion legal. The Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act still effectively bans abortion – but new legislation in line with public opinion can more easily be enacted once the 8th amendment is repealed.
20. Ireland has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the European Union. Malta, where abortion is banned in all circumstances, is the only member state where abortion laws are more restrictive.
21. If a woman becomes pregnant following rape and procures abortion pills, she risks 14 years in prison if caught and prosecuted. This is longer than the average prison sentence for rape, which is currently ten years.
22. Accessing travel is often impossible for victims of domestic abuse. 30% of women who experience domestic violence are physically assaulted for the first time in pregnancy.
23. The 8th Amendment impacts on the treatment of miscarriage. For as long as there is a foetal heartbeat, no intervention is permitted, even when the wait is at the cost of the physical and mental health of the pregnant person. This means that a woman can be waiting weeks for a confirmed miscarriage to actually start, not knowing when and where it is going to happen.
24. When 99 members of the general public deliberated over the presented facts around the 8th amendment, they voted overwhelmingly to recommend that abortion care be accessible to those who need it. We believe Ireland, like the Citizens’ Assembly, will respond with compassion and empathy, and vote to repeal the 8th amendment.
25. Making abortion available to all women and pregnant people does not mean all will access it. Highly restrictive abortion laws are not associated with lower abortion rates. For example, the abortion rate is 29 per 1,000 women of childbearing age in Africa and 32 per 1,000 in Latin America – regions in which abortion is illegal under most circumstances in the majority of countries. The rate is 12 per 1,000 in Western Europe, where abortion is generally permitted on broad grounds. (Source: World Health Organisation.)
26. It is relatively easy for men to access vasectomy services in Ireland. A woman, however, will have great difficulty in getting sterilised if she doesn’t meet certain criteria (age, number of children, etc). Women are also encouraged to attend counselling before they are sterilised, whereas the same is not expected of men before a vasectomy. (Source: HSE.)
27. Fatal foetal abnormality (FFA) isn’t a single condition or list of conditions. The individual symptoms are what make it fatal and if death occurs before, during or within minutes of birth, it is a fatal foetal abnormality. Contrary to rumours that legal abortion would mean termination for all diagnosis of a non-fatal disability, only 2% of all abortions carried out in the UK in 2015 were for this reason. (Source: Gov UK.) Moreover, the Joint Oireachtas Committee recommendations for legislation following repeal do not cover non-fatal disability.