6 outrageous facts about abortion in Ireland

The fight for safe and legal access to abortion in Ireland is on. Here are six facts that bring home the true impact of Ireland’s draconian abortion law.

1. In Ireland, abortion is only allowed if you are in danger of dying.

Abortion is banned except where there is a risk to your life – but not health. The definition of “risk” is narrow and vague. So it’s almost impossible to actually have an abortion in Ireland.

2. Breaking Ireland’s abortion law could get you 14 years in jail or a €4,000 fine.

If you have an illegal abortion in Ireland, you risk 14 years in prison. If you’re a healthcare provider and refer a woman to seek an abortion abroad, it’s a fine of up to €4,000.Ireland’s abortion law criminalizes women, girls and the health care professionals who try to help them.

3. A woman must carry to full term a foetus that won’t live.

If a woman is carrying a foetus that is unlikely to survive, she must still carry that pregnancy to term under Irish law. The trauma of doing this is summed up by Grainne: “How cruel would it be to make me go through this… To put me through a full pregnancy. I would have the breast milk, I would have everybody asking me how long are you gone?… How could they think that would not affect someone mentally?”

National Maternity Hospital, Dublin. © Amnesty International / Eugene Langan
National Maternity Hospital, Dublin. © Amnesty International / Eugene Langan

4. Equal right to life. Not equal in practice.

The 8th Amendment to Ireland’s Constitution, made in 1983, protects the right to life of the foetus and places it on an equal footing with the right to life of the woman. Most of the women and health professionals Amnesty spoke to, said that a woman’s rights inevitably come second. Lupe, a woman who was forced to carry a dead foetus for two months, told us: “When a woman gets pregnant in Ireland, she loses her human rights.”

5. Ireland is happy for you to have an abortion – as long as it’s not in Ireland.

Under Irish law, it’s legal to travel abroad to get an abortion, prompting the criticism that Ireland is happy to export its human rights responsibilities. Emma Kitson, who went to the UK for an abortion because her foetus had a fatal medical condition, said: “We deserved to have support within the Irish health care system, to get us through that… They export the problem and they forget all about you.”

6. Each year, about 4,000 women and girls leave Ireland to have an abortion in the UK.

Many feel like criminals for doing this. As Cerys, who travelled to the UK for an abortion, put it: “I am a law-abiding citizen and I felt like I was committing a crime, like I was smuggling drugs across the border. That feeling was horrible.”

A woman seeking an abortion is a woman trying to get the health care she needs. She is #notacriminal. Tell Ireland to change its abortion law. Sign our petition today.

My Body My Rights is Amnesty’s global campaign for sexual and reproductive rights.

4,000 women a year leave Ireland to have an abortion in another country. © iStock
4,000 women a year leave Ireland to have an abortion in another country. © iStock