Why our abortion law would be more permissive than the British law

Our new video points out that the abortion law currently being proposed by the Government goes even further than the already very permissive British law. The British law means one in every five pregnancies there ends in abortion each year. Here we will set out exactly how what’s on offer in Ireland is more permissive than the British law.


To summarise before going into the detail; at no point in Britain is abortion permitted “with no restriction as to reason”. Here in Ireland the envisaged law would permit abortion for any reason up to 12 weeks. It is during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy that more than 90pc of abortions take place.

After 12 weeks, our law would strongly resemble the British law which, as mentioned, is so permissive that one in five pregnancies end in abortion in Britain annually.

Now for the detail. In Britain, abortion is permitted until 24 weeks of gestation on five grounds:

  1. The life of the mother is at risk;
  2. To prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the mother;
  3. There is a risk of injury to the physical or mental health of the mother;
  4. There is a risk of injury to the physical or mental health of any existing children of the family:
  5. When the child suffers of physical or mental abnormalities.

In 2016, 97% of abortions in England and Wales were performed on ‘mental health’ grounds. Two percent were for abnormalities.

(Here the official report: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/report-on-abortion-statistics-in-england-and-wales-for-2016

In extreme circumstances, which accounted for 0.1% of the total number of abortions in 2016, terminations are also permitted after 24 weeks on grounds A and B.

Let’s compare this with what the Irish government is considering.

Health Minister Simon Harris’s proposal follows the recommendations of the Joint Committee on the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution. The big recommendation is that abortions should be permitted “with no restriction as to reason [our italics] provided that it is availed of through a GP-led service delivered in a clinical context as determined by the law and licensing practice in Ireland with a gestational limit of 12 weeks”. (2.40)

The Committee also recommended abortion, potentially without any gestational limits, on physical and mental health grounds. This goes further than the British law. As mentioned, in Britain the vast majority of abortions are performed for ‘mental health’ reasons, but with a general gestational limit of 24 weeks.

The Committee recommendations would also allow abortion without any limit “where the unborn child has a foetal abnormality that is likely to result in death before or shortly after birth”. (2.31)

In one respect only is the proposed law less permissive than the British one; it does not list non-fatal disabilities as a ground for abortion. But this is smoke and mirrors. As in countries like Germany, those abortions will be performed on the ‘mental health’ ground, with no gestational limits.