Unless Irish law changes, it’s only a matter of time before a woman goes to jail for 14 years for an abortion, says Taoiseach
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said last week it is only “a matter of time” before a woman in the Republic of Ireland is prosecuted under Irish law for having an abortion and given a 14-year prison sentence.
The law “hasn’t been enforced yet, but it could be enforced in the future”, he said while out canvassing in Dublin. He told reporters that there have been cases in Northern Ireland where women have been charged for taking abortion pills. One woman is being prosecuted there for helping her 15-year old daughter procure abortion pills on-line after she was reported to the police by a doctor at a clinic where she had first sought advice.
In 2016 another woman was prosecuted for taking abortion pills after her flatmates reported her to the police.
“Sadly if the law remains the same and there is a no vote then it is probably only a matter of time, 14 years in jail is very severe,” said Mr Varadkar. “The penalty for taking an abortion pill is worse than the penalty for rape, believe it or not,” he said.
This has to be the case because Ireland’s Constitution, under the Eighth Amendment, says that the right to life to the unborn is equal to the right to life of the mother, he said. “Therefore the penalty has to match that.”
This Friday’s referendum will be the last chance to change that, he said, and if it is defeated there will not be another one, the government will have to respect the will of the people, said Mr Varadkar: “I may not like result of it is rejected but I have to accept the outcome of referendums and elections.”
There would not be another referendum “in the foreseeable future, certainly not under this government or under this Dáil,” he said. But, he said, he had faith that the Irish people “will make the “right decision”.
“I am confident it is going to pass. I have great faith in the Irish people to consider all the issues to make the right decision. Essentially, I think what the majority of Irish people will do is put themselves in the shoes of a woman facing a crisis pregnancy and once you do that and think through what that must feel like, how difficult that decision must be, then the only way to vote is to vote yes,” he said.
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