“We are dismayed today to learn that the Minister for Health is announcing a review of the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act that is so narrow in scope it is doomed to fail to address the real problems with access to abortion in this country. Our research and international expertise on abortion shows that barriers in policy, such as the harmful 3 day wait, are significant obstacles to real accessible abortion.“ said spokesperson for ARC Darina Murray.
“Today the Minister spoke in legalistic terms about the terms of the review and insisted it must stick to the “operation” of the legislation rather than the “policy” behind it. Post-Legislative scrutiny is something that happens across the board and is not a new concept. Real people with real needs do not care about the operation vs the policy of the legislation. They care about being able to access adequate abortion care when they need it, without facing barriers, discrimination or stigma.”
ARC notes that the review of the law was promised to be the opportunity to address these barriers. The Minister himself spoke about the barriers to care and how the current legislation is not working as it should, but then he went on to remove any possibility for the changes necessary to be made by outlining such a narrow scope.
Ms Murray continued “The most important thing the Government could do is listen to the voices of people who have had or tried to have abortions in Ireland, including those who were denied abortions due to explicit or implict barriers. Their lived experience would highlight the real problems be they in policy or practice. We published a research study based on a diverse range of experiences which showed that many people suffered negative impacts of the 3 day waiting period. One person said the 3 day wait felt like “a punishment” while others reported that it caused “undue stress and anxiety”.”
“The World Health Organisation has stated that “mandatory waiting periods can have the effect of delaying care, which can jeopardise women’s ability to access safe, legal abortion services and demean women as competent decision-makers”. If the Minister for Health does not think such significant problems warrant attention in this review process, then he should seriously reconsider the point of this exercise.”
She added, “We need hard deadlines for this review. Every week people have to travel to England and Wales to get the care they need, some of them in great distress. We need a transparent and simple process to ensure that everyone who is affected can participate in this review process. We need to ensure everyone can participate, including people whose first language isn’t English. We won’t accept anything less.”