Early preg­nancy (12 weeks)

The Irish Times - Weekend Review - - NEWS REVIEW -

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.

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