As part of their campaign for a Yes vote in the upcoming referendum on the 8th Amendment, Amnesty International have published a number of position papers on key issues in the referendum.
In their paper ‘Harm to Women’s Health’, Amnesty outline the ways that the 8th Amendment can harms a person’s health when they are pregnant.
Becoming pregnant with a health condition
For some people, becoming pregnant could cause serious harm to their health, or even risk their life. There are some conditions that mean a person becoming pregnant could be damaging to their body. In other cases, becoming pregnant could mean that a person has to stop taking medication that they need to manage their illness or condition.
For people in these situations, abortion could be necessary to stop the person’s health from getting worse or even threatening their life. Without abortion, they may not be able to continue with treatment, or they might not be able to access treatment if a condition develops during the pregnancy.
When pregnancy causes health problems
Currently in Ireland, a doctor is restricted in the ways that they can help their patient if they have a health complication during pregnancy. The current law states that a termination is only legal if there is a “real and substantial risk” to the life of the pregnant person. This means that the doctor can only intervene and end a pregnancy if the pregnant person is at risk of dying.
However, if a pregnancy is likely to cause serious complications to a person’s health, a termination is not allowed unless the complications are severe enough to cause a threat to their life. This means that even if the pregnancy makes an existing health condition significantly worse, causes irreversible damage to a person’s health, or could result in personal injury or disability, it is not legal to terminate that pregnancy in Ireland.
If doctors wait until that complication causes a real and substantial risk to the pregnant person’s life, it may be too late to provide an abortion because a termination might not be medically possible at that stage.
Amnesty argue that a termination should be one of the options available for high-risk pregnancies. The law should provide for terminations where there is a significant risk to health, and not have to wait until death becomes likely.
The difficulty of travel with a health complication
While the option to travel overseas for an abortion is available for some, this can become difficult for people with health complications.
A doctor in Ireland is not allowed to make any arrangements for their patients to have a termination overseas. This means that the pregnant person must find a service that can treat their condition themselves and arrange an appointment on a day they can travel. An Irish doctor won’t be able to communicate with the doctor overseas, meaning they won’t be able to provide medical records.
Amensty International are calling for a Yes vote in the referendum so that pregnant people can receive the care they need in Ireland if they experience a health complication.