Change in the abortion laws in Ireland north and south likely to be glacial and conservative

The tragic case of Sarah Ewart’s opens up another round of discussions on the appropriateness of current abortion laws, both and south of the border. In this respect both jurisdictions on the island have much more in common than in Britain where the liberal 1967 abortion law legalises a woman’s right to choose in almost every circumstance.

In Ireland the guidelines that exist are often not well understood, even by those at the heart of the operation of the state’s medical institutions. A recent report on the death of Savita Halappanavar highlighted failures in basic care for the mother. The legislative response of government was to focus entirely on the health of the mother issue.

The Ewart case opens up another line, which the Dail decided to keep out of the legislative debate (not least because it cost them an arm and a leg politically to effect the limited changes they did at the time), ie the viability of the foetus once it comes to term.

But there is, as Melanie McDonough points out, no substantive pro choice lobby for converting Northern Ireland to the liberal legislation that currently exists in the rest of the UK.

No matter how many Irish women take the plane to Manchester, abortion law is set to take an age to change simply to take account of cases that ought to meet with even a grudging approval of all but the most conservative of social conservatives.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty