By Dave Andrusko
Although it was a formality, it was another blow to unborn children and their valiant protectors in Ireland.
On Tuesday Republic of Ireland President Michael D. Higgins signed a bill that officially gave effect to the May abortion referendum which repealed the pro-life 8th Amendment to the Constitution. Just under 67% voted to repeal the 8th amendment which gives equal legal protection to mothers and unborn children.
Moments afterwards Higgins affixed his signature, pro-abortion Health Minister Simon Harris tweeted that next week he would introduce draft legislation defining the legal terms of abortion.
The 8th amendment is now officially gone from our constitution. So many of you worked so hard to make this a reality. Legislation to Cabinet next week and into Dáil in October pic.twitter.com/PVO1Lw536w
— Simon Harris TD (@SimonHarrisTD) September 18, 2018
The party line has been that abortion would “only” be legal through the twelfth week. But an influential report submitted last December not only recommended that the 8th amendment be repealed but included vague recommendations that would allow abortion for a range of situations late into pregnancy.
Harris also made abundantly clear yesterday that he wants abortions paid for by the national health system. He said that “charging for abortions would lead to private clinics popping up around the country.”
Minister Simon Harris says cost can’t be a barrier for people, and it’s his intention that abortion services will be free of charge.
He said: “I said from the start that I don’t want cost to be a barrier because if cost is a barrier you get into a situation where one of two things happen.
“You see private clinics develop, we don’t want that to happen in Ireland we want this to be part of an integrated health service, and secondly you can see people having to continue to travel.
“I want this to be provided as part of our health care system, as part of our public health care system.
Not only will abortion be paid for, Leo Varadkar, the prime minister, has already announced if there is any public funding involved, Catholic medical institutions will be forced by the government to perform abortions. According to a June story from the BBC
“It will not . . . be possible for publicly-funded hospitals, no matter who their patron or owner is, to opt out of providing these necessary services which will be legal in this state once this legislation is passed by the Dáil [the lower House of Parliament] and Seanad (senate) . . .”
Mr. Varadkar added: “That legislation will allow individuals to opt out based on their consciences or their religious convictions but will not allow institutions to do so.
“So, just as is the case now in the legislation for the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013, hospitals like for example Holles Street, which is a Catholic voluntary ethos hospital, the Mater, St Vincent’s and others will be required, and will be expected to, carry out any procedure that is legal in this state and that is the model we will follow.” [Underlining added.]
On Tuesday Varadkar said abortion legislation would be introduced in the first week of October, with services available from January. However, according the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), doctors have expressed concerns about several aspects of the proposed legislation.
The Institute of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, giving evidence before a Government committee, expressed concern about the need to have access to ultrasound facilities to date the pregnancy and to detect ectopic pregnancies. “Introduction of a termination of pregnancy service without adequate scanning facilities is fraught with risk” says the body’s opening statement.
The Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) said that doctors “are concerned about the potential lack of appropriate specialist support, and the possibility of medical complications for their patients.”
They also reiterated calls for a system where doctors would “opt-in” and choose to perform abortions. The Government has advocated a system where doctors could chose to conscientiously object and opt-out, but would have to refer to a colleague who would provide the abortion. Another doctors union, the National Association of GPs, previously called on the Health Minister to ensure an opt-in system, and advocates for “conscientious objection, without obligation to refer”.
Pro-life commentators described the removal of the Eighth Amendment as “a sad day for human rights”. The evidence is that it is also a sad and frightening day for women’s health and for freedom of conscience.