NWC: abortion review findings must be published without delay
Published: Thursday, February 02, 2023
With one week to go to the submission of the abortion review, the National Women’s Council (NWC) says key changes are urgently needed to provide adequate healthcare to women, and that clarity is required on the Government’s next steps. They say the criminalisation of doctors; the mandatory 3 day waiting period; and the 12-week limit are all limiting access to abortion for those who need it and this review must lead to evidence-led legislative reform.
NWC Director Orla O’Connor elaborated:
“Many people are not aware that, outside of very narrowly defined circumstances, doctors and other medical professionals face criminal charges for carrying out an abortion. Take the devastating example of a doctor who diagnoses a fatal foetal abnormality after 12 weeks but cannot say with certainty that the child would die within 28 days of birth. That doctor will not be able to provide care to this woman at home in Ireland because abortion is criminalised in those circumstances. It is still the case that women in this heart-breaking situation are having to travel for abortion services with all the stress and trauma that this entails.”
NWC also say the three-day mandatory wait period – an obstacle which does not apply to any other medical procedure – is infantilising and must be removed. It puts severe pressure on women who are approaching the 12-week limit and disproportionately affects women who cannot afford the travel or childcare costs associated with GP visits. Disabled women and migrant women are also disproportionately affected by the measure. Women can and must be trusted to make their own decisions about their own healthcare.
NWC Women’s Health Coordinator Alana Ryan said:
“This review marks a significant moment for the provision of abortion in Ireland. There has been an extensive evidence-gathering process and this must now lead to political action. We need transparency on the next steps and how they will lead to meaningful reform. The Health Committee provides the most appropriate cross-party political fora to consider policy and practice change and we are calling on them to commit to lead this next stage.”
HSE data shows only 11 of 19 maternity hospitals are providing abortion services, and just 1 in 10 GPs. One measure which could improve this would be the introduction of safe access zones so that patients and medics can provide and access healthcare without fear of intimidation. The Health Committee is currently considering this legislation and as a result has detailed knowledge of the abortion-care roll-out.
Marie O’Shea is due to submit the review to the Health Minister Stephen Donnelly on 7 February, having been delayed from the original 2022 submission date. However, there is no timeline for the Minister to publish the review.
NWC has written to the Health Minister and to the Chair of the Health Committee Seán Crowe to suggest the Committee examine the findings and make recommendations to Government. NWC believes the Committee should produce a final report for the wider Oireachtas for consideration by the summer recess. This could provide a route to legal and policy change where required by the evidence.
For comment: Orla O’Connor or Alana Ryan
Find here the NWC’s letter to the Health Committee: https://www.nwci.ie/images/uploads/NWC_Abortion_Review_Health_Committee_31_January_2023.pdf
For more information, please contact Sinéad Nolan, NWC Communications and Social Media Coordinator on firstname.lastname@example.org
The National Women’s Council is the leading national representative organisation for women and women’s groups in Ireland, founded in 1973. We have over 190 member groups and a large and growing community of individual supporters.
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The Abortion Working Group
The Abortion Working Group is a group of civil society organisations and healthcare providers established in early 2019 and chaired by the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWC). The purpose of the Working Group is to provide a space for information sharing and collective advocacy for groups working to ensure safe access to abortion in Ireland. The working group is comprised of Abortion Access Campaign West, Abortion Rights Campaign; Abortion Support Network; Action for Choice; Alliance for Choice; Amnesty International Ireland; BelongTo; Cairde; Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment; Disabled Women Ireland; Doctors for Choice; Dublin Well Woman Centre; Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL); Irish Family Planning Association; Inclusion Ireland; Lawyers for Choice; Leitrim for Choice; National Collective of Community Based Women’s Networks (NCCWN); National Women’s Council of Ireland; START Doctors (GP providers of medical abortion in the community); Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI); Termination for Medical Reasons; Together for Safety; Union of Students in Ireland (USI); Women’s Aid.