When sought, abortion that is accessed legally and safely with proper after-care typically has a positive impact on a woman’s health.
In Ireland, the impacts of stigma, isolation and secrecy, coupled with the absence of legal abortion services here and the financial and practical difficulties involved in travelling for abortion in the UK and elsewhere, mean that women with an unwanted pregnancy may suffer anxiety, stress and depression as a result. According to medical opinion, Ireland’s restrictive abortion laws are damaging to women’s mental health.
It is also important to note that the Eighth Amendment creates an unequal and discriminatory health system in which a pregnant woman has only a qualified right to healthcare i.e. pregnant women have lesser healthcare rights as compared with non-pregnant women and all men.
The Eighth Amendment also makes a dangerous and unworkable distinction between a pregnant woman’s life and her health. Doctors are obliged to wait until a woman’s life is at risk before being able to provide appropriate health care, i.e. to carry out an abortion. The law, combined with the threat of criminalization (with a sentence of up to 14 years imprisonment), are known to have prevented doctors from being able to act in the best interests of their patients as, for example, in the case of Savita Halappanavar.
Medical abortions (i.e. using the abortion pill up to the 9th or 10th week of pregnancy) are very safe and relatively cheap. Yet women who choose to self-induce an abortion in Ireland could face up to 14 years in prison.