Labour to vote on allowing abortion after rape

Abortions should be permitted in cases of rape and incest, and in later stages of pregnancy where there is a risk of disabling damage to a woman’s health, an internal Labour Party report recommends.

Provisions in the Constitution on equal rights to life of the mother and the unborn must also be repealed, the Labour Women Commission reports says.

The commission, advised by legal and medical experts, will present its findings to party members at Labour’s national conference in Killarney today.

Members will then vote on whether Ireland’s abortion laws should be altered after the next general election, if Labour was in the next government.

The report, obtained by the Irish Examiner, outlines where Labour says there should be access to termination of pregnancy for a limited range of medically certified grounds. These include:

nRisk to life, as stated under the existing Protection of Life During Pregnancy legislation;

nFatal foetal abnormality; nA real and substantial risk to the health of the woman (physical or mental) in the early stages of pregnancy. In the later stages of pregnancy, a more stringent test would apply and a termination would only be available where there is a risk of severe or disabling damage to the women’s health;

nWhere the effect of a pregnancy arising out of rape, incest, or serious sexual assault creates a risk to the physical or mental health of a woman.

Tánaiste and Labour leader Joan Burton has already said Ireland’s abortion laws are too restrictive and that she would like to see the eighth amendment to the Constitution (Article 40.3.3) — which gives equal rights to the mother and the unborn — repealed.

The commission, chaired by former senator Dr Mary Henry, includes Equality Minister Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, senator Ivana Bacik, TDs, and councillors.

Its report outlines how no new abortion legislation, other than that relating to a risk to a women’s life, can be introduced unless the Constitution is changed.

It says there is evidence women are increasingly ordering pills online in order to terminate pregnancies. It says there are reports that British clinics may begin restricting access to terminations for some Irish women and that others are returning to Ireland having partially completed a termination.

The report notes that 3,679 women travelled from Ireland for terminations in England and Wales in 2013.

Costs associated with travelling abroad for procedures affect women in lower socioeconomic groups, the commission notes, pointing out that three in four people support abortion in cases of rape or incest, according to recent opinion polls.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said the Coalition will not legislate further for abortion nor have a referendum on related issues before the next general election.

Meanwhile, deputy Labour leader Alan Kelly has attacked Sinn Féin’s policies on helping homeless and disabled people and said the so-called left are promoting “false utopian promises”.

In today’s Irish Examiner, the environment minister rejects anyone “writing off” the party.

“Labour is beginning the fight back,” he writes.


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