The government has imposed the mandatory three day waiting period “to give women time to think over the decision”. This is not only unnecessary, as no-one makes important health decisions on the spur of the moment, but it is also a very harmful rule for a huge part of people in Ireland.
People do not discover that they are pregnant immediately. No-one can afford to do pregnancy tests on a weekly basis. With gestation counted from the date of the last period, many people discover their pregnancy with little time to spare before the 12-week deadline. The first appointment doesn’t happen immediately either. We have too few care providers for that. Having to wait the three extra days in many cases means that the pregnancy reaches 12 weeks, at which point the pregnant person is no longer eligible for abortion.
Pregnancy is often an additional danger for victims of violence. It is a well known fact that abuse increases if a victim is pregnant, as she is seen as even weaker and more vulnerable, more in the power of the abusive partner. Obsessively jealous partners often suspect that the pregnancy is not theirs and become even more violent than before, some may even be capable of killing a pregnant person. Others, while refusing to use contraception and prevent their partner from using it, still demand that their partner doesn’t get pregnant. For them, pregnancy is a sign of disobedience, which needs to be punished. In such cases violence has no end and not rarely ends with the pregnant partner being killed.
Hence, for victims of abuse and living in controlling relationships, being able to have a termination on that one appointment, to which they manage to make it, is crucial and can even be a matter of life and death. The three day compulsory waiting period, requiring two visits to a medical facility, effectively puts the victims of domestic abuse at severe danger, by creating obstacles on their way to get help and putting them at risk of not being able to meet the 12 week deadline, resulting in them being violently punished for becoming pregnant.
For people living in abusive relationships getting out of the house is very difficult, particularly if they are -as is often the case- strictly controlled by their partners. While finding pretence to leave the house to go to one medical appointment may be doable, however, doing it twice in a short space of time can prove impossible – in abusive relationships a person can be simply prevented from leaving the house by their controlling partner. By the time the person gets a second chance it may be way too late to access abortion under Irish law. This means that law, which should always protect the victims of domestic violence, actually discriminates against them. By making it impossible to get healthcare during one appointment, it makes it impossible for them to get it at all. By enforcing mandatory two appointments before termination is made the law exacerbates the risk to life and health of the victims of domestic abuse, instead of helping them and protecting them.
The three day mandatory waiting period was certainly not intended to put most vulnerable people in danger. However, we have to face the fact that it causes grave risks to victims of domestic abuse, and therefore has to be removed from the legislation.
Please contact your TD (you can find their contact details here) and let them know that you don’t want the mandatory three day waiting period to put victims of domestic violence and abuse in additional grave danger. Please ask them to stand up for the victims of violence and abuse and act to remove the mandatory waiting period which harms and discriminates against the most vulnerable people in our country.