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O’Shea Abortion Review must be catalyst for system change: NWC

Published: Wednesday, April 26, 2023

The National Women’s Council (NWC) has warmly welcomed Marie O’Shea’s review of the abortion system, and stated that the report must act as a catalyst for system change so that every woman who needs an abortion can access it in Ireland. We particularly welcome recommendations on increasing geographical coverage, on making the three-day wait optional, on decriminalisation, and on reviewing arbitrary restrictions on care in cases of fatal foetal anomaly.

NWC Director Orla O’Connor said:

“This report shows that, despite the wishes of the vast majority, women are still travelling for abortion, and doctors still face criminal liability in certain circumstances. We know that 80% of people do not want women to have to travel to access abortion, and that 71% believe abortion should be treated like any other healthcare procedure. It is very welcome that the report will now go to the Oireachtas Health Committee and we hope that Committee will present its  recommendations before the summer recess.”

Alana Ryan, NWC Women’s Health Officer, commented:

“Disabled women, refugees, and those reliant on public transport are disproportionately affected by patchy geographical coverage, and those same women are affected by the mandatory 3-day wait, so it’s good to see recommendations to rectify these issues. We also warmly welcome the recognition that the 28-day clause for fatal foetal anomoly is not working in practice and that an alternative approach is required. We urge the Health Committee to use the 2022 WHO Abortion Care Guidelines to inform evidence-led legislative reform.”

It’s very welcome to see the recommendations to review legislation for fatal foetal anomaly and in cases where the health of the woman is at risk. This will widen access for a considerable number of people who need compassionate healthcare, but there will undoubtedly be women left behind. NWC are calling on the Oireachtas Committee to recommend the removal of the 12-week limit, so that the decision is left up to a woman and her doctor. The WHO also recommends against these gestational limits.

The report recommends decriminalisation of abortion for medical professionals, which is very welcome. However, this falls short of full decriminalisation, as recommended by the WHO. NWC would urge the Oireachtas Health Committee to consider removing the criminalisation clause entirely. Nobody, whether they are a doctor helping a patient, or a mother helping her daughter, should ever be criminalised for accessing healthcare.

Five years on from Repeal, it’s not acceptable that the provision of care is patchy and piecemeal in some areas of the country. We wholeheartedly support the target of 6000 GPs by 2028, as well as the recommendation to prioritise recruitment of service providers into hospitals.

Mandatory wait periods are patronising and demeaning to women as competent decision-makers, and contrary to international WHO guidelines. The 3-day wait delays access to time-sensitive healthcare and should have no place in our laws.


For comment: Orla O’Connor or Alana Ryan

Find here the survey with statistics on Irish attitudes to abortion: https://www.nwci.ie/images/uploads/15880_NWC_Every_Woman_Report_FINAL.pdf

For more information, please contact Sinéad Nolan, NWC Communications and Social Media Coordinator on sineadn@nwci.ie


What: Abortion Working Group response to O’Shea Report

When: 10am, 27 April

Where: Brooks Hotel, Drury St, Dublin 2

About NWC

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.

This year we celebrate 50 years since our foundation with a special calendar of events and campaigns.

The ambition of the National Women’s Council is an Ireland where every woman enjoys true equality and no woman is left behind. This ambition shapes and informs our work, and, with our living values, how we work.

We are a movement-building organisation rooted in our membership, working on the whole island of Ireland. We are also part of the international movement to protect and advance women’s and girls’ rights. Our purpose is to lead action for the achievement of women’s and girls’ equality through mobilising, influencing, and building solidarity. Find out more on www.nwci.ie