ARC’s response to RTE Investigates “Ireland’s Abortion Services”

Two hands holding little fingers in a pinky swear on a green and yellow circle. background is white with stars. Text reads: Repeal Review.

Nearly six years ago, the Irish people voted to repeal the 8th Amendment and allow for legislation on abortion. In the wake of the RTE Investigates documentary, the public outrage continues as we hear from those who were denied the abortion they needed, and forced to bear the shame and stigma of travelling abroad for care. At the Abortion Rights Campaign, our solidarity is always with those denied access to abortion. Our anger is directed at the politicians whose inaction has permitted this situation to continue. 

Since the historic vote, we and other organisations have stated that our abortion care must meet basic human rights standards – and that the legislation we have does not. We said this while the legislation was being drafted, in committee stages, in our submission to the recent review and at every other chance we have gotten since. Any politician who is surprised or dismayed that people still travel for abortion has simply not been paying attention. 

Since ARC’s foundation in 2012, we have listened to people’s stories. Unfortunately, things have not gotten better. In 2017, as Minister for Health, Simon Harris said that his department was “genuinely taking action on [rogue crisis pregnancy clinics and counselling centers],” and he would bring forward regulations after the summer recess. The summer recess in 2017. It’s now 2024, that’s already 8 summers too many, with no indication when change will happen.

Sinn Féin’s Spokesperson on Health, David Cullinane, stated this week that experts need to be consulted before implementing the changes recommended by the O’Shea report. Yet, those recommendations were made in a 138 page report after consultation with the experts. The WHO has commissioned research into Ireland’s abortion provision. We at ARC have produced research on experiences of abortion care, as have other NGOs. The experts have had their say. Repeatedly. Unsurprisingly, most of these reports suggest the same basic legislative changes. The recommendations are clear, and they need to be implemented. We need political action. There is no point in commissioning an independent review of legislation and then simply ignoring the recommendations.  Ideology and the personal beliefs of politicians must not supersede pregnant people’s access to abortion care that is human rights compliant.

Politicians need to implement the recommendations now. Waiting until after the next general election, as suggested, will mean at least another year of sub-standard services – they’ve got the information, they’ve had more than enough time, they need to get on with it.