General Scheme of Access to Abortion Bill 2015
Ireland has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world. Abortion has been criminalised since 1861, and the passage of the 8th Amendment in 1983 introduced ‘the right to life of the unborn’ into the Constitution. The effects of the 8th Amendment are felt on a daily basis by women leaving Ireland for abortion, by pregnant women receiving maternal care, by doctors caring for pregnant women, and by lawyers working for the health service. As predicted by the then-Attorney General Peter Sutherland at the time of the referendum, the 8th Amendment has introduced an uncertain and practically unusable position to Irish law. It has, simply put, become “unliveable”.
In late 2014 Labour Women, a branch of the Irish Labour Party, established a Commission for Repeal of the 8th Amendment. That Commission comprised three groups: a political group, a medical group, and a group of legal experts. The authors of this Draft Bill are those legal experts. In the accompanying paper, we first outline the legal status quo as regards abortion in Ireland before making a case for constitutional reform. Having established the desirability of, and need for, constitutional reform we then outline the working principles that informed our drafting of the Access to Abortion Bill 2015, bearing in mind our intention to craft a model for reform that would be workable from the perspective of women’s lives, medical practice, and politics. Although drafted as part of the Labour Women Commission, and with some (limited) input from the other Commission groups, the proposed draft is that of the authors (working within the confines of our remit as ‘legal experts’ to the Commission) and not of the Labour Party or of Labour Women. It is made available here for discussion, debate and development by all interested parties.
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share the work for any purposs with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).