Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

Rally to mark X case anniversary

Pro-choice campaigners are calling on the Government to introduce a new abortion law
Pro-choice campaigners are calling on the Government to introduce a new abortion law

Pro-choice campaigners demanding abortion legislation are to stage a rally to mark the 21st anniversary of the X case.

More than 100 people from 50 civil society organisations and trade unions have joined forces to call on the Government to introduce a new law before the summer recess.

Umbrella group Action on X said there must be no more delays and insisted that the legislation must include a risk of suicide as grounds for abortion, as ruled in 1992. The opinion of no more than two medical practitioners should be able to approve an abortion, and it must be available if a foetus has a fatal abnormality and cannot survive, said spokeswoman Alison Spillane.

"We are calling on the Government to produce legislation without unnecessary restrictions, so that women whose lives are at risk because of pregnancy - including the risk of suicide - have real rather than theoretical access to abortion in Ireland," she added.

The group, backed by several trade unions including Siptu, Unite, Congress, as well as the National Women's Council of Ireland, Terminations for Medical Reasons, Union of Students in Ireland, academics and politicians, will stage a Rally for X on Monday from the Central Bank to Dublin Castle at 6.30pm.

The X case centred on a 14-year-old girl who had been raped and became pregnant. The Attorney General asked the High Court to impose a travel ban on the teenager which the Supreme Court later overturned because of her suicide risk. The judges gave their written ruling on March 5, 1992. The girl had a miscarriage before she was able to have the pregnancy terminated and the law remained unchanged.

The controversial abortion ban re-ignited last year when four women went public with harrowing stories of how they travelled abroad for a termination following diagnoses of fatal foetal abnormalities and after the death of Indian dentist Savita Halappanavar on October 28 at University Hospital Galway.

The 31-year-old was 17 weeks into her pregnancy when she miscarried and subsequently suffered septicaemia. Her husband claims that doctors refused to carry out an abortion as a foetal heartbeat was present.

The Government announced plans in December to introduce a combination of legislation and regulation to legalise abortion as a last resort to save a woman's life. The new laws will be drafted in accordance with the 21-year-old Supreme Court ruling on the X case, which allows for abortion when a woman's life is in danger, including the threat of suicide.

But campaigners for abortion fear the draft legislation will not be ready by Easter as expected. Action on X added: "Opinion polls... consistently show that most people in Ireland support X legislation. The Dail must act for the majority, not defer to the minority."

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