Supporters of the Pro Life Campaign gathered outside Leinster House yesterday to respond to a report in the Irish Times which claimed the three-day waiting period for reflection may be removed from Irish abortion legislation as part of the forthcoming review.
The three-day waiting period was a key promise of the government in the run up to the May 2018 referendum which assuaged many ‘soft’ Yes voters to ultimately vote to repeal the Eighth Amendment. Even then-Tánaiste Simon Coveney supported a Yes vote on the basis of promised safeguards like the three-day waiting period. If the government now proceeds to strip away the last vestiges of live-saving elements of the abortion law like the three-day wait, they are running roughshod over important promises from just four years ago.
As we know from replies to parliamentary questions, in the first three years of the Irish abortion regime, we have seen almost 4,000 women who did not proceed from their first appointment to having an abortion. Not all of these cases related to pregnant women changing their minds on abortion, but it is a solid indication that thousands availed of the three-day waiting period for reflection and ultimately opted to continue with their pregnancies. Thus, there are thousands of children alive today who may otherwise have been aborted.
Unfortunately, the Irish government has proved uninterested in justifying the rationale behind the three-day waiting period or in pointing to its merits. Instead, government language has often focused on how to overcome “problems” associated with the waiting period. This is unhelpful and points to the inherent flaws in the review process which have been pinpointed by the PLC on several occasions since its launch in December 2021.