24th March 2020
During this unprecedented emergency in public health, we must ensure that people can access the healthcare they need, including abortion care. We have contacted the Ministers for Health and Justice, asking them to allow telemedicine to be used for abortion consultations during this crisis.
Currently, a person seeking an abortion must attend a GP for examination. This is no longer possible or advisable for some, under these extraordinary circumstances. We reminded the Ministers that abortion is a time-sensitive and essential health service that must be accessible to those who need it.
We have asked the Ministers to take immediate action to guarantee our right to access a safe abortion during this emergency. We ask the Government to take the following steps at once, in compliance with expert guidance from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists:
- allow telemedicine to be used for abortion consultations and pledge not to prosecute any doctor who provides abortion care via telemedicine during this emergency
- allow patients to take both abortion medications at home
- class travel for abortion as ‘essential’ during any travel bans that may be imposed during this health emergency
- extend free abortion care to residents of Northern Ireland
Telemedicine is already in use in Ireland by, for example, VideoDoc and Spectrum Health, and more recently, by individual GPs as they adapt to the current crisis. Telemedicine to provide abortion has proven safe, effective, and acceptable in other jurisdictions.
We urge the Minister for Health to clarify that an in-person visit is not required in order to satisfy the Act and put appropriate protocols in place. We urge the Minister for Justice to assure doctors they will not be prosecuted if they offer medical abortion by telemedicine at this time.
Both the Abortion Rights Campaign and the Government want to keep people safe during this emergency. It is in all of our interest to minimise the strain on our healthcare system and to prevent people who are not sick from coming into contact with those who are.
Cathie Shiels & Anna Carnegie, Co-Conveners, Abortion Rights Campaign