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Significant challenges remain in accessing abortion care in Ireland

Published: Wednesday, April 27, 2022

The Director of the National Women’s Council of Ireland, Orla O’Connor, presents to the Oireachtas Health Committee on the ongoing issues for women and pregnant people who need abortions in Ireland. 

NWC said there are key challenges which must be addressed in the current abortion review if we are to improve abortion access for all:

  • Poor national coverage: : Only 7% of GPs are registered with My Options, the HSE’s unplanned pregnancy service that provides abortion care to the general public, a significant barrier to access for women and pregnant people in rural Ireland particularly.
  • Restrictive legal framework: Rigid gestational limits, mandatory waiting period, narrow foetal mortality clause and the ongoing criminalisation of doctors all impede doctors’ abilities to provide urgent care and place additional stress on women and pregnant people, contrary to WHO guidelines
  • Lack of Safe Access Zones and Maternity Hospital provision barriers: GPs have highlighted the threat of anti-abortion activities is one of the biggest impediments to new providers coming on board. GPs also want the support and back up of local maternity hospitals and currently only 10 maternity units in Ireland provide abortion services 
  • Lack of adequate data collection: Medical providers should be obliged to record refusals of care on the grounds of conscience and detail the service they referred the woman or pregnant person onto. Enhanced data collection is key for mitigating risks and barriers to service users.

Presenting at the Oireachtas Health Committee, NWC Director Orla O’Connor said: 

“The overwhelming vote for Repeal was a clear statement by the public that all women should be able to access healthcare at home, and with their doctors, make decisions regarding their care needs. 

This is now the case for many women and pregnant people who have been able to access care in Ireland since 2019 but significant challenges remain as some women and couples continue to be forced to travel and marginalised women face additional barriers. NWC members believe this Review is a critical moment for the Oireachtas to change the current situation for women, for widening access to essential healthcare and for ensuring that no woman has to travel. It is a unique and essential opportunity to raise quality standards and bring Ireland in line with WHO guidance and international best practice.”

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You can read Orla O’Connor’s full transcript of testimony on the National Women’s Council website. The Irish Family Planning Association also addressing the Committee today.

Notes to Editor:
The National Women’s Council (NWC) 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. 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. More information is available on www.nwci.ie