On Wednesday, Irish lawmakers passed legislation that takes the country one step closer towards providing free and legal abortions, approving a bill to legalize the procedure. It will now go to the Senate, where it is also projected to pass. At the end of May, voters in the country overwhelmingly voted to repeal Ireland’s decades-old constitutional ban on abortion.
Here’s what the bill does, per the New York Times:
The bill would allow a woman to seek abortion for any reason up to the 12th week of pregnancy, and later in a case of fatal fetal abnormality or serious risk to a woman’s life or health. It includes a mandatory three-day waiting period after first consulting a doctor.
While leaders of the Catholic Church are unsurprisingly opposed to the legislation, some abortion rights advocates have critiques as well, namely that the restrictions in the bill—in particular, the three-day waiting period—will continue to make abortions inaccessible for many.
“For women in the remote countryside, or in violent and coercive relationships, for teenage girls living under the control of their parents or women who have difficulty traveling, it is very hard for them to see a doctor once, let alone have to come back again at least three days later,” said Mairead Enright of Lawyers for Choice to the Times.
The provisions included in the legislation “might seem minor,” wrote Emer O’Toole in the Guardian. “But abortion is time-sensitive,” O’Toole wrote. “For someone at 10 weeks of pregnancy, with childcare and work commitments, these stalling tactics are the difference between accessing safe, legal care at home and begging money for the boat to Liverpool.”
Still, for a country where, until recently, the penalty for performing or having an abortion was a 14-year jail sentence and an estimated 3,000 women travel outside the country every year to obtain an abortion, the legalization of abortion is a major milestone. As Ailbhe Smyth, an activist who helped lead the campaign to repeal the ban, said to the Times, “I think it’s very much about Ireland saying that a past that was very dark and very difficult, particularly for women, that that is behind us.”