Press release: Dail vote welcome but issues with legislation must be resolved

Dáil vote of 102 Yeses to 6 Nos

ARC welcomes today’s Dáil vote of 102 Yeses to 6 Nos, which brings the Health Bill to committee stage, but reiterates problems with the legislation.

Speaking this evening, ARC spokesperson Linda Kavanagh said: “We’re glad to see the legislation passing to second stage with a high number of Yes votes, and it’s good to see that the committee are likely to meet over the Halloween recess to keep things moving. The referendum passed 5 months ago and people still continue to travel to access care, or risk a jail sentence by taking safe but illegal abortion pills.

However, we want to reiterate the many problems with this legislation, and to highlight these with the Committee who will be in a position to suggest amendments. As we’ve noted before, the three-day waiting period serves no medical purpose and will be an impediment to people who need abortion care, especially in rural areas.

More must be done to ensure that this legislation is truly patient-centred. Refusal of care on conscience grounds, or ‘conscientious objection’ directly contradicts this patient-centred approach. No one should be denied access to the care they need. We need only to look to Italy to see how this refusal of care has vastly restricted  abortion access, with sometimes tragic consequences.

The continued criminalisation of abortion in the legislation will have a well-documented ‘chilling effect’ on medical professionals. Abortion needs to be completely decriminalised and regulated like any other healthcare procedure.

The absence of trans-inclusive language in the Bill is a problem. The legislation should be brought in line with the 2015 Gender Recognition Act in order to meet the needs of everyone who can get pregnant in Ireland.

Finally, we need clarity that the ‘serious risk to health’ provision in the legislation for abortion care after 12 weeks does not impede access for those who need it.”