Some of those campaigning for repeal of the Eighth Amendment have attempted to create the false impression that Ireland is somehow unique in the world in having criminal sanctions for procuring an illegal abortion.
The truth is that most countries, even ones with very permissive abortion laws, have some sanctions against illegal abortions.
Abortion is an extremely serious issue. It ends the life of an innocent baby in his or her mother’s womb. There have to be deterrents in the law for something as serious as that. In the event, however, that any prosecution were to take place, it should focus on the abortion provider and not the women seeking the abortion. Campaigners for repeal of the Eighth Amendment know full well that in Ireland, just like in most other countries, women seeking abortions have not been targeted by the law or prosecuted.
There are legitimate reasons, however, for this section of the law to remain as it currently stands. Take, for example, situations where indiviuals illegally import abortion drugs to self-administer without medical supervision. That’s a very serious health and safety matter, not just for the baby whose life is endangered but also for the woman involved. Situations like this arise in every country with or without legal abortion. It’s a reality today that all kinds of drugs, some very dangerous, are traded over the internet. It is not a justification for legalising some of the dangerous drugs in question. It is an area though where the criminal law acts as an important deterrent.
Things are further complicated by situations like the one recently where abortion advocates, including at least one member of the Oireachtas, illegally brought abortion drugs into the country and self-administered them as part of a publicity stunt. There has to be a sanction agaisnt such irresponsible life-endangering behaviour.