Almost 4 years on from Repeal, the current abortion law is causing barriers to accessing abortion for many women and pregnant people in Ireland.
This year, the law is being reviewed for the first time and this is a unique opportunity to tackle these barriers and improve abortion access.
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Here are some of the issues with current legislation:
- Only 1 in 10 GPs (405 GPs in total) are providing abortion services in Ireland. Only 246 of these GPs are currently listed with MyOptions, the HSE's unplanned pregnancy support. There is a lack of abortion services in the North West Ireland and Sligo in particular has very limited access to abortion. Although GPs who provide early medical abortions are very committed, coverage remains a significant barrier to accessing abortion.
- Only just over half of maternity hospitals provide abortion services.
- Women in rural areas and from marginalised backgrounds face extra challenges in accessing abortion care.
- Access also remains particularly difficult for women and pregnant people facing the devastating news that their baby has a severe or fatal foetal anomaly. In 2020, the proportion of Irish residents travelling for a termination on these grounds increased, accounting for 1/3 of all those who travelled for abortion care.
The Abortion Review is made up of three strands:
- Public consulation: NWC chairs the Abortion Working Group and in March, we made a collective submission to the public consultation, available here.
- Consultation with service users: In July, the HSE published the Unplanned Pregnancy and Abortion Care (UnPAC) Study, which reported on findings from consultation with service users. The study recommended that the Abortion Review give particular consideration to the narrow qualifying criteria for access to care for fatal foetal anomalies and the "chilling effect" on healthcare providers of working within a criminal framework.
- Consultation with service providers: The objective of this research is to capture the views and experiences of service providers. The project is being led by Dr Deirdre Duffy and supported by a team of researchers
We expect the Abortion Review findings to be published in full in November. The report will include key recommendations for government to consider, and so now is a critical time to raise your voice for improved #abortionaccess in Ireland.
Here is what we are campaigning for:
- Review the 12-week limit and extend it into the second trimester: Abortion care, like all aspects of health care, should be decided in the context of a trusting and supportive doctor-patient relationship, whereby medical needs are met in line with clinical best practice and patient preferences.
- Remove obligatory 3-day wait: There is no medical purpose or value to the three-day waiting period. This restriction impedes doctors’ abilities to provide urgent care when required while also placing additional stress on women.
- Removal of the PPS number requirement: Abortion should be free at the point of access for all users, the PPS requirement creates an additional barrier for women and pregnant people of migrant background and those travelling from Northern Ireland who need to access care in Ireland.
- Remove 28-day limit: All women with a diagnosis of severe or fatal foetal anomaly should be guaranteed compassionate care in their own country. Cases of fatal foetal anomalies are rarely black and white - abortion legislation needs to allow for this nuance. It is unacceptable that many are still forced to travel for termination on medical grounds. Current law is failing women and pregnant people.
- Recognise abortion as a central aspect of healthcare and end the criminalisation of doctors: Abortion is recognised as an essential aspect of healthcare by the World Health Organisation. Doctors still face up to 14 years in prison if they provide abortion care outside the very specific circumstances laid out in Irish law. No other aspect of healthcare is criminalised in this manner The criminalisation of healthcare in Ireland has a ‘chilling effect’ and undermines doctor’s clinical judgement and professional expertise.
- Broaden coverage: Access to nationwide coverage of abortion services in primary care and maternity hospitals settings must be prioritised by the HSE.
- Introduce Safe Access Zones: No Safe Access Zones in Ireland means anyone who needs to access abortion is potentially subject to abuse and harassment.
- Contraception and Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE): To realise the reproductive and sexual health rights of all, universal access to contraception and the development of a modern RSE curriculum must be addressed.
Will you support our #AbortionAccess campaign?
This is our moment to further stand with women and pregnant people and ensure that at this critical time for reproductive health and rights in Ireland, their voices and experiences are central to the provision of abortion care.
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For anyone affected by the issues discussed, there is information and support at myoptions.ie