Will the law on abortion information be changed after repeal?

Yes.

The Government’s proposed new law will repeal the Regulation of Information (Services Outside the State for Termination of Pregnancies) Act 1995, and key provisions in the Censorship Acts of 1929 and 1946. Under these laws information about abortion is censored and heavily regulated.


At the moment, information about abortion in Ireland is strictly regulated.

The Constitution does allow for information about abortion abroad to be made available in Ireland. This was introduced in 1992, in the wake of the X Case (Attorney General v X [1992] 1 IR 1). It is part of the same article as the 8th Amendment (Article 40.3.3). In respect of information the Constitution says:

This subsection shall not limit freedom to obtain or make available, in the State, subject to such conditions as may be laid down by law, information relating to services lawfully available in another state.

However, the distribution and receipt of such information can be regulated by law. This regulation is primarily now found in the Regulation of Information (Services Outside the State for Termination of Pregnancies) Act 1995.

This Act introduces a number of key conditions for the distribution and receipt of such information, including:

  • Information must be “truthful and objective” and cannot “advocate or promote” abortion (s. 3(1))
  • Information about abortion must be solicited by recipients; it cannot be given unless someone asks for it (s. 4(b)), including in counselling services (s. 5)
  • Counsellors and advisors may not advocate or promotion abortion to a pregnant person or to anyone on her behalf (s. 5(a)).
  • Where information about abortion is sought and provided, the advisor or counsellor is required to also discuss adoption and parenting as options (s. s. 5(b))
  • No doctor, advisor or counsellor may make a referral or appointment for a pregnant person to an abortion service abroad; to do so is a criminal offence (s. 8)
  • All services, medics and counsellors can opt out, on the basis of conscience, from the provision of any information about abortion (s. 13)

These limitations on information are designed to ensure that the right to life of ‘the unborn’ is appropriately protected as required by the 8th Amendment.

In addition, censorship law–which long predates the 8th Amendment–is relevant to the availability of information about abortion in Ireland.

The Censorship of Publications Act 1929 makes it illegal to print, publish, cause to be printed or published, sell (or offer, expose or have available for sale), or distribute (or offer or have available for distribution) any book or periodical “which advocates or which might reasonably be supposed to advocate the unnatural prevention of conception or the procurement of abortion or miscarriage or any method, treatment, or appliance to be used for the purpose of such prevention or such procurement” (s. 16).

The Censorship of Publications Act 1946 allows for the sale or distribution of any book considered to “advocates the unnatural prevention of conception or the procurement of abortion or miscarriage or the use of any method, treatment or appliance for the purpose of such prevention or procurement” to be banned (s. 7(b)).

The Government proposes to repeal (i.e. to remove from the law) the 1995 Act and both of these provisions in the censorship laws if the 8thAmendment is repealed (General Scheme, Head 20).

Information about abortion would, presumably, then be regulated in the same way as all other healthcare information.

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