ARC calls for Abortion to be recognised as essential healthcare – on Demand, Without Apology – at the 12th Annual March for Choice

Abortion is Healthcare and must be available to all who need it, without restriction,

says Abortion Rights Campaign

The Abortion Rights Campaign (ARC) marked International Safe Abortion Day outside Dáil Eireann, highlighting that significant barriers remain when accessing abortion care in Ireland. While reproductive rights are increasingly under attack worldwide, our government continually fails to provide free, safe, legal, local and accessible abortion services for all who need them.

Speaking ahead of the 12th Annual March for Choice, ARC co-convener Richael Carroll said, “Abortion is healthcare so we put it in lights for this year’s International Safe Abortion Day as abortion is still the only area of healthcare regulated by criminal law. We want those who make and implement healthcare policy in Ireland to take note of this basic fact, and provide free, safe, legal and local abortions to everyone who requests one.”

Lauran Kilmartin, ARC co-convener, highlighted some of the gaps in provision persisting five years after the Repeal of the 8th Amendment. Only 12 of the country’s 19 maternity hospitals and 10% of GPs provide complete abortion services. 

“Access to abortion is time-dependent. The highly restrictive options in our current legislation and the geographic disparity in provision, negatively impact abortion seekers. We warned about these issues from the beginning – the rural/urban divide and patchy provision disproportionately impacts disabled people, working-class people, migrants, people living in Direct Provision, people who are already parents, and people who have other responsibilities. Are we really saying that we are ok with abortion access being a lottery of means and geography? Are we really saying that we are ok with forcing people to remain pregnant against their will because of their life circumstances?”

Five years after the grassroots-led historic vote to remove the 8th Amendment from the constitution, we are still waiting for legislation that recognises there are no circumstances in which it is acceptable to force someone to remain pregnant against their will. 

Lauran said, “Decriminalisation is fundamental to recognising abortion as healthcare. We have medical safeguards in place – there is no need for abortion to be seen as a criminal matter unless the goal is to keep stigma and shame attached to abortion care.  Removal of all barriers to safe, legal, local and free-of-charge abortions will demonstrate where our values are – upholding human rights, evidence-based healthcare, and ensuring the safety and dignity of people who need abortion in Ireland.”

“The government and the health service are aware of the issues, as they have been raised numerous times through public consultation and their independent review. They need to implement the recommendations without delay.”

The independent review contains a range of recommendations, including 10 legislative changes and 60 operational recommendations. The review calls for replacing the medically unneccesary mandatory three-day waiting period with a statutory right to a reflection period, should the pregnant person choose. ARC has consistently called for the complete decriminalisation of abortion, and the review makes the same recommendation. As things stand, doctors face up to 14 years in prison if they provide abortion care outside the confines of the legislation.

Image description: coloured heat map of Ireland with counties. The counties with the most gps providing abortion services are darker in colour, the Counties with the fewest are lightest. From most to least: Dublin 130 Cork 69 Galway 24 Wicklow 21 Donegal 15 Clare 15 Limerick 14 Tipperary 13 Waterford 13 Kildare 13 Meath 12 Kerry 11 Louth 11 Westmeath 9 Cavan 6 Kilkenny 6 Wexford 6 Leitrim 4 Laois 4 Mayo 3 Sligo 3 Roscommon 3 Offaly 3 Carlow 2 Longford 1 Monaghan 1