Early pregnancy (12 weeks)
7. (1) It shall be lawful to carry out a termination of pregnancy in accordance with this Head where a medical practitioner certifies, that in his or her reasonable opinion formed in good faith, the pregnancy concerned has not exceeded 12 weeks of pregnancy.
(2) It shall be necessary for 72 hours to elapse between the time of the certification referred to in subhead (1) and the termination of pregnancy being carried out. #
(3) The medical practitioner referred to in subhead (1) shall make such arrangements as he or she shall deem to be necessary for the carrying out of the termination of pregnancy as soon as may be after the period referred to in subhead (2) has elapsed but before the pregnancy has exceeded 12 weeks of pregnancy.
(4) For the purposes of this Head, “12 weeks of pregnancy” shall be construed in accordance with the medical principle that pregnancy is dated from the first day of a woman’s last menstrual period.
DIVIDING LINES This is the probably most contested section in the legislation. It relates to access to terminations within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
It states that terminations of pregnancy will be lawful when a medical practitioner certifies that the pregnancy has not exceeded 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Seventy-two hours must elapse between this certification by the medical practitioner and the termination being carried out.
This has led to claims that there would be unrestricted access to abortions up to the 12th week.
The Bill states a woman would have to seek a termination from a medical practitioner, who would have to satisfy themselves that the pregnancy is within the first trimester. A waiting period of three days would then be enforced. The termination would be permitted after that.
There have been allegations from those opposed to repealing the Eighth Amendment that this would allow for the termination of pregnancies when a foetus with non-fatal abnormalities – such as Down Syndrome – is identified.
However, the Yes/Repeal side argues, it is extremely difficult for such a condition to be identified within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
To explain, a woman would have to seek a test that is expensive and not widely available. It is available only at the ninth or 10th week of pregnancy, and its results take two weeks to process as they are sent to the UK or US for examination.
This is not a diagnostic test. A further test would be required, and it takes a further three days for results to return.
So while it may be technically possible to identify a condition such as Down Syndrome within the first 12 weeks, it is very rare.
A woman would be able to access a termination within the first 12 weeks of her pregnancy without having to indicate a specific reason for doing so.
The No side suggests the screening tests could improve over time to allow for a confirmatory diagnostic test within the 12 weeks.
The Yes side says this is a hypothetical situation but, if this occurs, the Government could alter legislation to take account of possible technological advances.