September 1992

Abortion in Ireland - a Historical Perspective to the 1990's


Abortion was totally illegal in Ireland under all circumstances until the Supreme Court judgement in the "X" case earlier this year, which seems to permit abortion in the extremely limited case of threatened suicide by the mother. The 1861 Offences against the Persons Act states that any person "performing, attempting and or assisting in an abortion is liable to penal servitude for life". Laws such as this on the statute books of other European countries have been relaxed, liberalised or abolished in the face of the general realisation and acknowledgment that women always and everywhere will exert their right to end an unwanted pregnancy. In Ireland powerful reactionary forces have succeeded in not only preventing the liberalisation of laws here on abortion but have gone much further with a constitutional amendment, the 8th Amendment, and a series of court actions which have outlawed the distribution of information on abortion. Ireland is now the only country in the world that actually bans information on abortion. The offensive by the Pro-Life Amendment Campaign (PLAC) against womens' rights in Ireland is part of a world wide offensive against abortion rights. The upholding of Ireland's information ban by the E.C. Court of Justice places the campaign for abortion rights in Ireland in an international context.