Press release: Hypocritical Government Still Forcing People to Travel

Protesters at the Abortion Rights Campaign March for Choice in 2021 outside Leinster House. The people are holding handmade posters that say 'As Early As Possible As Late As Necessary', 'Scrap the 12 week limit! There are no 'good' or 'bad' abortions' and 'Local Access and Safe Access Zones'
Photo credit: Debbie Hickey from Studio Ten Photography

Today marks 4 years since a majority of people in Ireland voted to repeal the 8th amendment. 4 years since politicians spoke of the “Irish solution to an Irish problem” and about how utterly appalling it was that we were forcing people to travel out of Ireland for healthcare. Yet, 4 years later, we are still forcing people to travel for abortion care. 

“While thousands of people have been able to access abortion care here, at home, since 2019, our legislation is full of medically unnecessary barriers,” said ARC co-convener Darina Murray

Four years on, four persistent barriers to access:

Lack of local provision

“There are gaps in abortion provision, which disproportionally affect people living in rural Ireland, disabled people, working-class people, migrants, and people living in direct provision. Our research shows that people need to travel for 4-6 hours for abortion care, particularly those living in rural areas. This is significantly longer than they usually travel for healthcare appointments.”

Unnecessary, paternalistic waiting period

“Once your appointment is made, you face the mandatory 3-day waiting period between your first and second appointments. It is 2022, yet we still do not trust pregnant people to know what is best for them. The 3-day wait is nothing more than paternalistic nonsense, which the World Health Organization states “can jeopardise women’s ability to access safe, legal abortion services and demean women as competent decision-makers.” 

Lack of safe access zones

Ms Murray continued, “Nine out of our 19 maternity hospitals and maternity units still do not provide full abortion services, and only one in 10 GPs are abortion providers. This is a damning consequence of refusal of care (‘conscientious objection’), the chilling effect caused by the criminalisation of doctors who perform abortions outside the limited terms of the legislation, and the lack of safe access zones to prevent the harassment of people accessing medical services and healthcare providers. When we said we wanted free, safe, legal, local and accessible abortions, the local part was not an added extra. Local access is vital to ensure that people can have the abortions they need when they need them.”

“Our restrictive legislation means that many people are still forced to leave the country for abortions. Since 2019 Abortion Support Network has funded 179 clients from Ireland, who were failed by our abortion law. This is not what people voted for in 2018.”

Restrictions leading to denial of care

“We also know that in instances where abortion pills have failed, and a person’s pregnancy has passed the 12-week on request limit, they cannot complete their abortion in Ireland unless they meet the criteria for an abortion post 12 weeks. Abortion pills are safe and effective, but like other medications, they fail about 2% of the time. Abortion Support Network has supported at least 50 people travel after a failed early medical abortion. This failure to complete abortions that were started in Ireland under the care of doctors is essentially state-sponsored medical negligence.” 

Ms Murray added, “As we look at the potential overturning of Roe v. Wade in the U.S., we must see it as part of a global push to roll back hard-won reproductive freedoms. Ireland made international headlines when we overturned our constitutional ban on abortion in 2018. With our legislative review, we have the opportunity to improve access to abortions and to ensure that abortion care is fully integrated into our healthcare system, as it should have been from the beginning.”

Ms Murray concluded, “Abortions must be available on request throughout pregnancy for everyone. Pregnant people must be able to have abortions as early as possible and as late as necessary. Anything less leaves far too many people behind and denies pregnant people their reproductive rights.”