Addressing information and abortion access with the Irish Deaf Community

RTÉ’s “Hands On”, a show for and by the Irish Deaf and hearing impaired community, covered abortion access in a 10 minute segment still currently available on the RTÉ player. While it’s great to watch to get a sense of the obstacles toward accessing both information and services, especially as a member of the Deaf community in Ireland, we have highlighted a few of the covered issues to  provide additional facts and support.

RTÉ has come under criticism recently but with The Moment of Truth – Danielle, and this segment of “Hands On” sharing the story of a woman undertaking an illegal abortion, here in Ireland, the National Broadcaster has taken the same type of unprecedented move, as when the Late Late Show shocked the nation in the early 1980s by talking about condoms and demonstrating how to use them.

In examining abortion, the show has highlighted a number of issues about access to both information and abortion in Ireland. As great quantity of the debates and conversations on abortion would not have been made fully accessible to the Deaf Community, the show provided a synopsis of the legislation and action in Ireland.

As we regularly see as a campaign, accessing information on abortion in Ireland can be difficult for everyone, but when your own community doesn’t talk about it and when the unknown healthcare professionals you come across may not be accommodating of your communication needs, It’s even more unknown.

Hands On featured the story of a woman who discovered she was pregnant, despite having taken the morning after pill.

Some people will have openly Pro-Choice friends they can have conversations with, but many people don’t know where to begin looking for information. Language can often be a barrier when it comes to accessing information abortion, and “Hands On” highlighted the additional obstacles faced by members of the Deaf community.  The woman in the Hands on piece felt pressure not to talk about it as the Deaf community do not discuss it and approached Positive Options.

Positive Options is a service that helps those experiencing a crisis pregnancy, access information and explore their options. Their website and text messaging service can put a person in touch with free non-directive counselling services. One-to-one crisis pregnancy counselling with a doctor or registered counsellor is the only way information about abortion clinics can legally be given to a person in Ireland. Positive Options provides free, non-judgemental counselling and support.

The women in the piece decided to have an abortion went through counselling and her options for travel or adoption, and decided instead to access an abortion within Ireland using Abortion Pills. She describes her abortion and her post-abortion check-up.

And expert from One Family makes clear, as does the countries most recent legislation: abortion Pills are illegal in Ireland – it’s illegal to bring them into the country and illegal to use them. However, at a cost of approximately  €50 euro – they’re considerably cheaper then travelling to the UK for a surgical abortion. More and more people find that they are unable to travel  for many reasons, such as the prohibitive cost or lack of childcare or because they lack the necessary documentation. More chose instead to order pills online and to have their abortions at home.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has placed the Abortion Pill on it’s list of essential medicines and identifies it as one of the ways to reduce unsafe abortions.

Their list of Essential Medicines “constitutes official advice to all governments on the basic drugs their doctors should have available”. The expert committee, after reviewing evidence from 39 trials, ruled that mifepristone (also known as RU-486) followed by misoprostol is “effective, safe and convenient in inducing medical abortion until nine weeks of pregnancy”. The medications have been licensed in the UK since 1991 and in the US since 2000.

Current legislation criminalises the thousands of women in Ireland every year who self-administer the abortion pill and discourage them from seeking necessary medical assistance if it is needed. Abortions pills are “effective and safe” according to the WHO, but will remain illegal in Ireland until we Repeal the 8th Amendment to the Irish Constitution.

At the end of the segment two spokespeople were provided to show the classic RTE balance and while the anti choice position mostly focused on their own definition of life and some unsubstantiated numbers about the dangers of abortion pills, Mark Murphy of Doctors for Choice pointed out the real fact that the Irish Government have left women in the position in which choosing abortion pills is one of the only limited options.

The show was incredibly valuable information for a group of people who have not been directly invited into the conversation that has been continuing. The issues are already confusing enough, and this show both addressed the additional obstacles and helped provide some of that needed context, while breaking another level of taboo about abortion.

If you would like to watch this episode of Hands On“,  it is currently still available on the RTÉ Player and the segment itself starts at 8.25 or just click Resume.

We all need access to safe and legal abortion, the first step in that process is to repeal the 8th Amendment, help us do that by Signing our petition on

There are aftercare and medical check ups services for those who do go down the route of ordering Abortion Pills online, for more information see: The Abortion After-care FAQ on the Abortion Pills