Abortion Timeline


Sept 2014: A guidance document is published for the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013, 9 months after the Act came into operation. This guidance document seems to amplify the intrinsic flaws in the legislation (see DFC press release).

August 2014: The case of Ms Y comes to light who sought a termination of her pregnancy on the grounds of suicide but was delivered by caesarean section.

July 2014: The UN Human Rights Committee urges Ireland to bring about constitutional and legislative changes to bring Ireland in line with human rights standards on the issue of abortion.

January 2014: the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act 2013 commenced having had orders and regulations signed by James Reilly, Minister for Health.


July 2013: the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill was passed by both houses of the Irish Parliament. The Bill was approved by the Dáil (lower house of the Irish Parliament) in the early morning of 12 July 2013. On 30 July 2013, President Michael D. Higgins signed off on the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013.

March 2013: the Government informed the Council of Europe that a Bill to implement the A, B and C judgement will be published in April and legislation will be in place by the end of July.

January 2013: On January 8th, 9th and 10th the Oireachtas Health Committee held public hearings into the report of the expert group established to advise Government on the implementation of the A, B and C v Ireland judgment of the European Court of Human Rights. Experts from the medical and legal fields and representatives of advocacy organisations were heard.


November 2012: A Private Members Bill to implement the X case was put before the Dáil and rejected.

October 2012: Savita Halappanavar died in Galway University Hospital from septicaemia following admission for a miscarriage. She had requested a termination but was refused.

April 2012: A Private Members Bill to implement the X case was put before the Dáil and rejected.

March 2012: The Committee of Ministers of Europe expressed concern at the Government’s delay in implementing the judgment in A, B and C v Ireland and at the lack of any interim measures in place to ensure that a woman in the position of Applicant C would have access to the right to a termination of her pregnancy.


A, B and C v Ireland: In the case of A, B and C v Ireland, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights unanimously ruled that Ireland’s failure to implement the existing constitutional right to a lawful abortion in Ireland when a woman’s life is at risk violates Applicants C’s rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.


Miss D: High Court case relating to the case of a 17 year old woman (Miss D) with an anencephalic pregnancy who was in the care of the HSE. The HSE social workers attempted to prevent Miss D from travelling to England for a termination and she brought the case to the High Court were it was ruled that she had the right to travel.


EctHR judgement on D v Ireland:European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled D v Ireland inadmissible because the case did not go through the Irish Courts. The Irish Government relied on the argument that in the Applicant’s particular circumstances, she could have been legally entitled to an abortion in Ireland should she have gone through the Irish courts system. The Applicant, known as D, argued that Ireland’s ban on abortion in the case of fatal foetal abnormalities violated Articles 1, 3, 8, 20, 13 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights.


25th Amendment of the Constitution Rejected: Irish voters rejected the Twenty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Protection of Human Life in Pregnancy) Bill, 2002 which would remove threat of suicide as a ground for abortion and increase the penalties for helping a woman have an abortion.


Crisis Pregnancy Agency Established: The Department of Health and Children established the Crisis Pregnancy Agency to prepare and implement a strategy to address the issue of crisis pregnancy in Ireland as recommended by the All Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution’s Fifth Progress Report on Abortion.


All Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution: The Fifth Progress Report: Abortion was published – the 700 page report was a political assessment of the issues raised in the Green Paper on Abortion, submissions received and hearings conducted. The views of women who have had abortions were not heard. The Committee failed to reach a political consensus on the substantive legal issues of abortion but agreed on a strategy to reduce the number of crisis pregnancies.


Green Paper on Abortion: The Green Paper aimed to set out the issues surrounding abortion, provide a brief analysis and to consider possible options available. It was a discussion document and not a policy document.


A and B v Eastern Health Board: A 13 year old girl, known as Miss C, is raped and becomes pregnant. The Eastern Health Board takes C into its care and in accordance with the girl’s wishes, obtains orders from the District Court to take C abroad for an abortion. C’s parents challenge these orders in the High Court case A and B v Eastern Health Board, District Court Judge Mary Fahy and C. Mr Justice Geoghegan rules that as Miss C was likely to take her own life if forced to continue with the pregnancy, she was entitled to an abortion in Ireland by virtue of the Supreme Court judgement in the 1992 X Case.


Constitution Review Group: This group recommended the introduction of legislation covering matters such as defintion of the “unborn”, protection for appropriate medical intervention, certification of “real and substantial risk to the life of the mother” and a time limit on lawful abortion.


Regulation of Information Act 1995:The Act allows doctors, advisory agencies and individual counsellors to give information on abortions services abroad should a woman request it. Information relating to abortion was required to be accompanied by information on parenting and adopting under the Act. Under the Act service providers cannot (including doctors) make an appointment for a termination abroad on behalf of their client.


The X Case:In the case Attorney General v X, the Supreme court ruled that a 14 year old girl (X) who became pregnant as a result of rape, faced a real and substantial risk to her life due to threat of suicide. They determined that this threat could only be averted by the termination of her pregnancy and that under article 40.3.3 of the Constitution the state is required to have “due regard to the equal right to life of the mother” and therefore X is entitled to an abortion in Ireland. Following on from the X case the Government put forward three possible amendments to the Constitution including:

  1. the freedom to travel outside the State for an abortion (passed)
  2. the freedom to obtain or make available information on abortion services outside the State, subject to conditions (passed)
  3. to roll back the X case judgement in order to remove suicide as a grounds for abortion in Ireland (rejected)


ECJ: SPUC v Grogan: The European Court of Justice rules in SPUC v Grogan that abortion could constitute a service under the Treaty of Rome and therefore a Member State could not prohibit the distribution of information by agencies having a commercial relationship with foreign abortion clinics. In 1986 the High Court had ruled that availability/distribution of information on abortion services outside the state was in breach of the 8th Amendment to the Constitution. This decision was affirmed by the Supreme Court two years later. At the time student groups that had been the target of the initial High Court judgement were still denied the right to distribute information as they had no direct link with abortion services outside of Ireland.


Availability of information on abortion outside the State is determined in breach of Constitution by the High Court. This decision was based on a reading of the 1983 amendment that implied this information undermines right of the child to life. This decision was affirmed by the Supreme Court two years later.


8th Amendment of the Constitution: The Eighth Amendment of the Constitution is passed the following is inserted into the Constitution: “The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.”


Offences Against the Person Act: Criminalises women who have an abortion and individuals who assist with this. This was punishable by life imprisonment. This act remains the basis of criminal law on abortion in Ireland.