USI has spoken out about the abortion legislation. Isabella De Luca reports…
The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has criticised the proposed abortion legislation published by the government on Tuesday night, April 30.
The Protection of Life in Pregnancy Bill 2013 aims to provide legal clarity for the medical profession of the circumstances where a medical termination is permissible, if there is a real and substantial risk to the life, as distinct from the health, of a woman as a result of a pregnancy.
The government made steps to enact this legislation following pressure from the European Court of Human Rights, the report of the Expert Group on Abortion last year, and the controversial death of Savita Halappanavar in October.
USI have condemned the bill as inherently hypocritical. The new legislation reaffirms the right of women to travel for abortion, yet threatens underprivileged women who cannot afford to go abroad with an unlimited fine or jail sentence of up to 14 years for inducing an abortion in Ireland.
USI says that this enshrines the existing situation which makes abortion a class issue. The cost of travelling to England for an abortion, including clinic costs, travel and accommodation, is estimated to be at least €1,000. Young women in particular, whether students or not, are unlikely to have ready access to such funds.
The proposed legislation also provides for legal abortion in the event that the mother can satisfy three doctors that she is suicidal. If she fails to meet this threshold, she has the option to lodge an appeal, which will be heard by a further three doctors.
USI has denounced this provision as being excessively onerous and calls for no more than two doctors to be involved in the examination. It stated that young women in particular would likely be further traumatised by such excessive scrutiny of their mental well-being.
“This bill does not go far enough,” said Laura Harmon, USI Vice President for Equality and Citizenship.
She added; “USI has consistently said that the professional opinions of no more than two medical practitioners should be needed. We need to trust women to make decisions about their own reproductive rights. USI also believes that abortion should be decriminalised. The Government cannot continue to export the abortion issue and USI will continue to advocate for a repeal of the 8th amendment to the Irish Constitution.”
The Union of Students in Ireland reaffirmed its pro-choice mandate at its annual Congress last March. It believes that the failure to provide services in Ireland creates considerable psychological, physical and financial hardship for those who either are forced to travel outside the country for abortion or forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term because of the restrictions imposed on them.