Committee findings an important step, but it’s a long road to a referendum

Committee findings an important step, but it’s a long road to a referendum, says Abortion Rights Campaign

The Abortion Rights Campaign (ARC) welcomes some of the recommendations today from the Joint Oireachtas Committee as “an important step towards securing real and realistic abortion access in Ireland” but highlights the importance of ensuring free, safe, and legal abortion access in subsequent legislation.

Speaking outside the Dail this evening, ARC spokesperson Sarah Monaghan said: “The majority of the members of the Joint Oireachtas Committee have acted in good faith throughout the committee hearings, and have heeded the expert advice given by those invited to address them. Now the Government must act swiftly in order to protect those in Ireland who seek abortions every day. They must immediately undertake the work required that will ensure we have a referendum in the first half of next year.”

“We welcome the recommendation to allow access to abortion without restrictions as to reason. However restricting this to only the first 12 weeks of pregnancy is far from the barrier-free access required to provide women and pregnant people in Ireland with proper, compassionate care. Nonetheless, it was encouraging to see the Committee recommending that the abortion pill be made available via GPs, and that those seeking abortion as a result of rape not be required to “prove” their attack.”

“We were also pleased to see a recommendation for access to abortion without gestational limits in cases of fatal foetal abnormality. However, the Committee’s decision to reject similar access in cases of serious foetal anomaly will affect families who may not receive an accurate diagnosis until later in pregnancy.”

Commenting on the unsuccessful vote for access to abortion on socio-economic grounds, Ms Monaghan said:

“As Senator Ruane and other members made clear, abortion is a class issue. Not protecting the right to an abortion for socio-economic reasons is punishing pregnant people who are in very difficult situations – just a few examples are those on low incomes, those who are homeless, women in difficult family situations or who are experiencing domestic violence. ARC’s advocation of free, safe, legal access means no such restrictions or classifications are necessary.”

ARC spokesperson Linda Kavanagh commented on the next steps:

“It is really important in the legislation stages that not only the minimum of barrier-free access up to 12 weeks be respected, but that access after 12 weeks also be made available on broader grounds.

“The Citizens’ Assembly made it very clear that access after 12 weeks was necessary in a number of cases, not just in the case of Fatal Foetal Abnormality. The gold standard of free, safe, and legal abortion that ARC support would guarantee access for all those who need it.”

Ms Kavanagh added:

“Both the Citizens Assembly process and the Joint Oireachtas Committee have shown what we already know, when people are presented with the evidence, they move towards a pro-choice position.

“We are deeply concerned that many members of the Dáil have not undergone the same learning experience that the Citizens’ Assembly and members of the Joint Oireachtas Committee have – this must not lead to a watered down version of the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly and the Committee. The recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly are the absolute minimum that we can accept.”

Ms Monaghan concluded: “The people of Ireland have waited long enough. Yes, we’re optimistic, but it’s a cautious optimism which relies on the Government respecting the work done by the Citizens Assembly, the Joint Oireachtas Committee and the fact that the vast majority of people in Ireland support repealing the 8th Amendment. ARC will continue to campaign for free, safe, legal access to abortion so as to not exclude those already marginalised in our society.”