New Year marks start of new Irish abortion regime
7 January 2019
Pro-life campaigners outside Leinster House on Wednesday, the first working day of the abortion regime.
Ireland's new abortion regime came into effect on 1 January 2019.
It was reported that about 20 women sought consultations on abortion on Wednesday (2 January), the first working day of the new service. Given the three-day waiting period built into the legislation, the first abortions under the new law are likely to have taken place over the weekend or earlier. Pro-lifers held a vigil outside Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, after social media reports that the first abortion under the new regime was taking place there today.
What is the new abortion law?
The new Irish abortion regime, which was signed into law just before Christmas, is in many ways even more extreme than the law in the UK, allowing abortion on demand up to 12 weeks. As this analysis of the bill explains, a baby can also be aborted until viability (around 6 months) where there is a risk to the life, or of serious harm to the health, of the woman. The risk of "serious harm" to health is not defined, and is open to interpretation. Health as used here includes both physical and mental health. In the UK, the vast majority of abortions are carried out under the same mental health ground.
Abortion is allowed up to birth in a medical emergency, and when the baby has a life limiting condition.
Where do abortions take place?
Abortions up to nine weeks are carried out using medical abortion pills, issued by GPs, while later abortions are carried out surgically in hospitals.
However, less than 170 of Ireland's 3,500 GPs signed up to provide abortions services in time for the January 1 launch (less than 5%). The number is now said to be 200, but so far, no GPs in four counties - Sligo, Leitrim, Carlow and Offaly - have signed up to provide abortions.
Concerns that the January deadline was "dangerously unrealistic" are still being raised by GPs. Dr Maitiu O'Tuathail, president of the National Association of General Practitioners, said that "GPs are being asked to operate without updated Medical Council guidelines, which is problematic" and that "access to ultrasonography is patchy across the country and will remain so for the foreseeable future."
Nine of Ireland's 19 maternity units are currently providing surgical abortions.
Pro-abortion campaigners seized on the presence of several small pro-life vigils to demand "safe-zones" around facilities where abortions are carried out. However, activists have been demanding bans on "protests" long before there were any abortions to protest, and politicians have made it clear they intended to legislate accordingly during the passage of the abortion bill. Health Minister Simon Harris said that he is "absolutely committed to safe access zones and I have a Government decision supporting the introduction of them." In the UK, where abortion has been legal for over 50 years, and peaceful vigils have been held for decades, the idea of legislating for buffer zones was recently rejected by the Home Secretary.
Abortion activists are now targeting Northern Ireland, the last part of the British Isles which is largely abortion free. However, people with disabilities have urged Secretary of State Karen Bradley to uphold Northern Ireland's pro-life laws.
While Ireland begins 2019 by ending the lives of its unborn children, some continue to seek protection for the unborn and reject the way of Herod.
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