The Guardian view on Ireland’s new abortion law: no choice at all

The Guardian, Sunday 17 August 2014

Inquest into miscarriage deathLittle seems to have changed in the Republic of Ireland’s profoundly anti-abortion stance since Savita Halappanavar died of sepsis in a Galway hospital two years ago.’ Photograph: The Irish Times/PA

Ireland’s abortion act promised access to abortion at least in a few cases. In practice, it seems to have made no difference at all.
A vulnerable young woman in Ireland has been forced to give birth by caesarean section, even though she was so desperate for an abortion she was ready to starve to death rather than have the baby. These are almost the only known details of one of the first appeals for permission for an abortion to take place since the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act – allowing for the first time very limited abortion – came into effect at the start of the year. Scant as it is, the news appears to confirm that little has changed in the country’s profoundly anti-abortion stance since Savita Halappanavar died of sepsis in a Galway hospital after being denied an abortion two years ago.
The act, which was a response not just to the Galway tragedy but to a 20-year-old supreme court ruling, was supposed to be revolutionary. But it is so tightly drawn that only where a mother’s life is physically at risk, or where she is suicidal, could the process of approving an abortion even be launched. Victims of rape and incest are explicitly excluded. Then, earlier this month, the Guardian obtained the clinical guidelines under which it operated. They are so restrictively framed that women and girls in severe distress because of unwanted pregnancies continue to face cumbersome and distressing barriers. They could have to see as many as seven different medical professionals before a request for a termination is granted. In effect, as this weekend’s case appears to show, it makes abortion all but impossible even for a suicidal woman.
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