Frequently Asked Questions
Who are Parents for Choice in Pregnancy and Childbirth?
Parents for Choice in Pregnancy and Childbirth originated from an online community that was set up to provide parents with a space to discuss issues around choice in pregnancy and childbirth without the stigma that exists around parents having pro-choice views.
Parents in Ireland have a unique perspective on matters of choice in pregnancy and childbirth, many of us having experienced the realities of going through it while living in a country that limits many of the normal healthcare options that a pregnant woman in other European countries would take for granted. People should become parents by choice, and not because they have no other option. We exist to campaign for the repeal of the 8th amendment to the Irish Constitution, which limits choices and bodily autonomy in pregnancy and childbirth, as well as criminalising abortion. We campaign for the availability of free, safe and legal abortion in the Irish maternity care system, in line with all other health care during pregnancy, and for the recognition of a pregnant and birthing person’s immutable right to bodily autonomy and exercise of choice in all situations. We believe a person should be able to birth in the manner and location of their choosing.
We do not want our children to need to take to the streets to protest for their human rights and bodily autonomy, like we do, and our parents before us. We do not want our daughters’ lives to be put at risk when they themselves are pregnant or giving birth. This needs to stop now.
How is choice in Ireland different to other jurisdictions?
Article 40.3.3 of the Irish Constitution (the 8th amendment) states: “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 option of abortion is unavailable for all women in Ireland, apart from if she is at risk of dying. This restriction also includes victims of rape and incest who become pregnant, women for whom continuing the pregnancy would have long term health implications (note; there is a difference between risk to health and risk of dying), this includes organ damage and disability. Parents faced with a heartbreaking diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality are also given no choice as to their options with regards to carrying to term.
Women who do not want to bring a child into poverty, or to a dangerous family situation have no choice. There is ‘freedom’ to travel to other jurisdictions to access what should be a normal healthcare option, but this freedom is not available to a large number of women in the direct provision system, in the prison system or to women who do not have the necessary finances to pay for travel and the procedure, not to mention those who are in too poor health to travel.
The Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act (2013) intended to address the issues around the risk to life of the mother, however in practice this law is cumbersome at best. Obstetricians have pointed out that risk to life is not an exact science and that waiting for a woman to become sufficiently ill that it is considered a risk to her life, is a very dangerous practice. It also does not take into account the wishes of the pregnant person. The PLDPA also provides for risk to life in the case of suicide, but as the case of Miss Y illustrated, this is farcical at best.
The choices that are open to a pregnant person who wishes to complete the pregnancy are also limited due to the 8th amendment, which is quoted in the HSE consent policy.
Why does the 8th affect continued pregnancy and birth?
The 8th amendment gives equal right to the foetus as to the mother, but in practice this is equality by name only. There are numerous examples of care in the maternity services where the foetus is given more rights than the mother. The 8th amendment affects the care a person receives during their pregnancy and childbirth. This impact is something that many women only become aware of when they are already in the maternity care system and their bodily autonomy is being compromised.
The HSE’s National Consent Policy restricts informed consent and informed refusal of treatment for pregnant women. To quote the policy page 41, Section 7.7.1 “because of the Constitutional provisions on the right to life of the unborn [Article 40.3.3] there is significant legal uncertainty regarding a pregnant woman’s right to [consent]
This section of the policy allows the HSE to bring high court injunctions against pregnant women who do not consent to proposed treatment plans, whether these are in line with international best practice or not. This impacts directly on many aspects of maternity care in Ireland, antenatal, labour, and birth. It directly removes and overrides the woman’s right to consent to or refuse any procedure during labour and birth. It eliminates the requirement for informed consent and is frequently used to coerce a mother into procedures without information or consultation, or consent needing to be sought. At times this goes as far as threatening to obtain court orders, or indeed seeking to obtain court orders, as in the case of Mother A, to force procedures on her, and using other legislation such as child protection legislation to further enforce compliance. This restriction to consent was highlighted in an AIMS Ireland survey where less than half of all women questioned said they were given the opportunity to refuse consent to tests, procedures and treatments.
Do you support abortion?
Yes, we do. We unapologetically support the right of the person who is pregnant, and only that person, to know what is right for them in their own unique situation.
Why would people who have babies and children support access to abortion?
Many of us say that having experienced pregnancy ourselves in Ireland and the lack of rights and bodily autonomy which went along with that solidified our pro-choice stances. Many of us have needed to access abortions ourselves, either before or after becoming parents.
As parents we know and live the demands and difficulties of lives as permanent, full-time carers for children. To force someone who is not ready and does not feel capable of taking up that burden into it against their will is inhumane, and as both Amnesty International and the UN have pointed out is tantamount to torture.
If a woman doesn't want to be a parent then why can't she carry to term and place the child for adoption? Lots of people who can't have children want to be parents…
Parents for Choice support the pregnant person’s right to choose. This includes adoption, should the person wish to do that. However, adoption should not be considered a “cure all”. Giving a baby up for adoption can and does have lifelong emotional consequences for both the woman and the adopted child, and should not be proposed as if it is an easy solution to the abortion question. Pregnancy is also not a simple or easy process for many women, and to force them to endure it to produce a baby at the end for adoption is not an ethical solution. On the other hand, the vast majority of women who themselves choose to have an abortion do not regret their decision and have no long term emotional consequences. We feel that whatever a woman chooses in relation to her pregnancy should be supported. Women should be trusted to make the best decision for themselves and their families.
There are lots of people who want children but it is not the duty of women with unplanned pregnancies to provide children to anybody else.