Present Legal Position

Polling day: 25 May 2018

The present legal position in Ireland in relation to termination of pregnancy

Laws are made by the Oireachtas. The Oireachtas consists of the Dáil, the Seanad and the President. Laws made by the Oireachtas must comply with the Constitution. The Constitution sets out the basic law of the State. Laws, if challenged, may be reviewed by the courts. The courts may declare a law invalid if it conflicts with the Constitution. The Constitution can be altered only by the people in a referendum. The present legal position in Ireland in relation to the termination of pregnancy results from provisions in the Constitution, court decisions interpreting those provisions, and laws passed by the Oireachtas. Read more here.

Article 40.3.3

Was inserted into the Constitution as a result of a referendum in 1983. The Article says that the unborn has a right to life and that the mother has an equal right to life. The Supreme Court has recently held that this is the only constitutional right of the unborn.

In 1992

The Article was interpreted by the Supreme Court in a case known as “the X case”. The Court found that the Article means that termination of pregnancy is permitted only when there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother, including a risk of suicide. Read more here.

In 1992

Two additions to Article 40.3.3 were made by referendums. These made clear that the Article does not limit freedom to travel and does not limit the freedom to obtain or make available information about services that are lawfully available in other States, subject to conditions as may be laid down by law.

In 1995

The Oireachtas passed a law which regulates the provision of information about termination of pregnancy outside the State. For further information click here.

In 2013

The Oireachtas passed the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act. It regulates termination of pregnancy where there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the woman.For further information click here.

In Summary

The present legal position is therefore that it is lawful for a pregnancy to be terminated only where it poses a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother, including a risk of suicide. This is determined in accordance with the 2013 Act. Otherwise, it is a criminal offence to intentionally destroy unborn human life.

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