Is Abortion Legal in Ireland?
In both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, abortion is highly restricted although the law differs in each country.
The majority of women living in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland travel to England to access abortion services.
Abortion and the Law In the Republic of Ireland
It is legal for women living in the Republic of Ireland to seek information about abortion services and to travel to England for abortion care appointments.
Access to abortion care is highly restricted in the Republic of Ireland, except where the pregnancy presents a real and substantial risk to the woman’s life. This includes the risk of suicide. It does not include cases of rape, incest or foetal abnormalities.
Abortion is legal in the Republic of Ireland only under the following criteria:
1) Risk of loss of life from physical illness
Two medical practitioners, an obstetrician and a medical professional of relevant speciality, have jointly certified in good faith that there is a real and substantial risk of loss of the woman’s life from a physical illness.
They must also certify that that risk can only be averted by carrying out the abortion. The procedure has to be carried out by the obstetrician who practices as such at an approved institution. The draft bill’s list of approved institutions included maternity hospitals and was extended to include hospitals with intensive care units when the nearest hospitals didn’t have emergency medicine facilities.
If a woman has cancer, the two medical practitioners will have to be an obstetrician and an oncologist for example. Where relevant, the specialists must also consult the woman's general practitioner (GP).
2) Risk of loss of life from physical illness in emergency
In a medical emergency, a single physician must both provide the diagnosis and perform the termination if he/she believes in good faith that there is an immediate risk of loss of the pregnant woman’s life from physical illness.
3) Risk of loss of life from suicide
Three medical practitioners need to jointly certify that there is a real and substantial risk of loss of the woman’s life by way of suicide. Those medical practitioners must be:
an obstetrician, a psychiatrist with experience treating women during or after pregnancy, and another psychiatrist. At least one of them should consult the woman's GP with her consent. The termination would be an elective procedure performed at an appropriate institution.
Abortion and the Law in Northern Ireland
Abortion is defined as unlawful in Northern Ireland. Abortion is not permitted in Northern Ireland in cases of rape, incest or foetal abnormalities.
Abortion is legal only under the following criteria:
1) To preserve the life of the woman
2) The adverse effect on the woman’s mental or physical health must be a “real and serious” and must also be “permanent or long-term”. This includes the risk of suicide
3) The pregnancy must be under 9 weeks 4 days of gestation (time since the woman’s last menstrual period)
Abortion is criminalised in most circumstances in Northern Ireland.
Marie Stopes UK will no longer be charging women from Northern Ireland for consultation or treatment. Find out more here.
Remember that in both countries, you have the right to:
• Travel to another country to access safe and legal abortion care
• Request information on abortion services abroad from your healthcare provider or crisis pregnancy counsellor
• Have information about abortion services in other countries as part of a face-to-face/in-person counselling session on all your options such as parenting, adoption and abortion
• Access pregnancy counselling, post-abortion counselling and free post-abortion medical check-ups in Ireland
• Be treated with dignity and respect at all times
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From Republic of Ireland
(Freephone) 1 800 200 374
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