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Women must not be forced to disclose rape to access healthcare services

Published: Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Following the latest meeting of the Oireachtas Committee, the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) today said that no woman should be forced to disclose or report rape in order to access healthcare services.

Orla O’Connor, Director of NWCI said,
“The discussions today around legislating for abortion for women who have become pregnant as a result of rape show that we urgently need to provide caring, comprehensive reproductive healthcare services for women and girls in Ireland. Becoming pregnant as a result of rape is one of the most harrowing situations a woman could face. Rape is always an act of violence, and it is among the most violent and violating things that a woman can experience. Often when a woman is raped, it is in the context of a relationship or a marriage, which can add to the complexity of the situation, and make it harder for a woman to disclose what has happened. There is still a stigma around sexual violence which further complicates the process of disclosing a rape.”

Orla O’Connor continued,
“Many women will not disclose to anyone that they have been raped. The vast majority of women in Ireland do not report a sexual assault to the Gardaí. It can be exceptionally difficult and traumatic for a woman to go through the courts and have to retell and relive this incredibly upsetting and distressing experience. We must be very clear in saying that no woman should be forced to disclose a rape, to prove she was raped, or prove that her pregnancy occurred as a result of rape, in order to access healthcare services. Any such legislation would be unworkable and unethical.”

Orla O’Connor concluded,
“Some women will choose to continue with a pregnancy that resulted from rape. Others will feel that to continue to carry the pregnancy to term or to be forced to experience childbirth would cause them considerable mental and emotional anguish. The complexity of these healthcare decisions has no place in the Constitution. Ireland must treat all of these women with the utmost care and compassion, and the Eighth Amendment is a barrier to this. We need legislation that will allow for the availability of abortion in early pregnancy for those who need it. Where a wanted pregnancy turns into a crisis pregnancy at a later stage in pregnancy, we advocate for legislation that would allow for abortions in order to protect the health of the woman, and in cases of a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality. These protected treatments would allow medical professionals to care for women in sometimes extremely difficult and distressing circumstances and support women, couples and families in making the decision that is right for them and their personal circumstance.”

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