The Abortion Rights Campaign (ARC) today launched their public submission for the review of the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018, urging the Government to decriminalise abortion in all circumstances.
The submission draws on their report Too Many Barriers: Experiences of Abortion in Ireland after Repeal report and data provided by Abortion Support Network (ASN), which highlight the failures of the current legislation.
“While abortion services in Ireland work well for some people, especially those who realise quickly that they are pregnant and live in urban centres, we are still forcing pregnant people to travel for abortion care,” said ARC Co-Convener Darina Murray.
“The most vulnerable in our society are being burdened by additional barriers to abortion care,” said Ms Murray. “One ASN client, an 18-year-old asylum seeker who was pregnant as a result of rape, was concerned that she would not be able to return to Ireland if she left the country to access an abortion. It is unacceptable that we are still treating vulnerable people with so little compassion.”
While clinical guidance on abortion states that abortions initiated prior to 12 weeks can be lawfully completed, this does not apply to cases of failed medical abortion that require a repeat course of treatment. Mara Clarke from ASN called this “state sponsored medical negligence.” ASN have supported at least 50 people to travel for abortion after a failed early medical abortion in Ireland.
One participant in ARC’s research said “I was left with the thoughts after my failed abortion in Ireland that my baby could be born with abnormalities or I could miscarry. Nowhere in Ireland could help me and I don’t think anyone should be left in that state after a failed abortion.”
“Our legislation must allow for abortion on request throughout pregnancy”, Ms Murray continued. “It is time for Ireland to allow us to make our own decisions about our own bodies and to truly honour the legacy of the Repeal of the 8th Amendment”
- Full decriminalisation of abortion and the extension of on-request access throughout pregnancy.
- Removal of the medically unnecessary three-day waiting period.
- Removal of refusal of care (“conscientious objection”).
- Ensuring that anyone who legally initiates abortion care in Ireland can complete their abortion in Ireland.
Other recommendations include: maintaining telemedicine; ensuring abortion is fully accessible for transgender people, disabled people, and ethnic minorities; the provision of safe access zones; the end to rogue agencies; and ensuring local care across the country. The My Options phone line isn’t fully accessible to people with speech impairments, language processing impairments, or neurodivergent people.
Ms Murray said, “We urge the Minister for Health to ensure that abortion seekers who make personal submissions about their experiences do not do so in vain. Many of the people still being forced to travel are those who have tried to access care here, but were unable to. The current law and system of providing care abandons people once they reach the 12 week mark, as well as people needing abortion for medical reasons.”
One participant in our research study said, “I had to terminate for medical reasons. Our consultant said our case 100% warranted a termination and we also got a second opinion from [hospital] but the consultant here said he couldn’t be sure our baby would die within 28 days of birth and because I was 15 weeks he couldn’t help us.”
Ms Murray concluded. “We look forward to participating actively in the review process. As the largest grassroots abortion rights organisation in Ireland, we will bring the lessons learned from our survey research and years of experience to the review to strengthen abortion rights and services.”
Notes to Editor:
The Abortion Rights Campaign recommendations for the review of the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018 are: 1. Decriminalise abortion in all circumstances. 2. Repeal the medically unnecessary mandatory 72-hour waiting period. 3. Repeal the arbitrary 12-week limit for abortion on request and extend on-request access throughout pregnancy. 4. Make explicit the right of transgender, non-binary and intersex people to access abortion care. 5. Make explicit the right of pregnant people to bodily autonomy and independent decision making. 6. Repeal refusal of care (‘conscientious objection’). 7. Amend the law to ensure that anyone who legally initiates abortion care in Ireland can complete their abortion in Ireland. 8. Improve the geographic distribution of primary care and hospital providers. 9. Increase the availability of surgical /aspiration abortion in primary care and hospitals across all geographic areas. 10. Make permanent the provision of telemedicine. 11. Add an appointment-booking service to MyOptions. 12. Provide easy-to-read information on abortion access and adequately resourced and staffed language interpretation services, including Irish Sign Language (ISL). 13. Provide services to enable Travellers, people in Direct Provision, disabled people, and others who must travel outside their county to access an abortion. 14. Fully implement the guarantee of free abortion care for all who live in Ireland, including people residing in Northern Ireland, regardless of possession of a Personal Public Services Number or medical card. 15. Legislate for and fully implement Safe Access Zones to ensure abortion care without harassment. 16. Legislate for and fully implement an end to deceptive rogue agencies that deliberately misinform patients about abortion. 17. Provide free access to all methods of contraception approved by Irish regulatory agencies to all who wish to avail of it.
The full submission for the review of the operation of the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018 is available at: https://www.abortionrightscampaign.ie/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/ARC_Submission.pdf
The Too Many Barriers: Experiences of Abortion in Ireland after Repeal report is available at: https://www.abortionrightscampaign.ie/research