The Health Bill (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) 2018 is in effect from January 1st 2019. The Bill makes elective abortion care legal for the first time in Ireland’s history, however it is far from perfect. The Bill has a built-in three year review period, which means TDs and Senators can propose amendments to the legislation when it comes up for review in 2022. TDs are responsive to issues that their constituents make clear are important to them, so it’s crucial that everyone who wants improvements to the Health Bill talks to their TD about why we need fully free, safe, legal and local abortion services for anyone who wants or needs them. We’ve put together some useful information to help you with this.
The Abortion Rights Campaign (ARC) works to achieve Free, Safe and Legal abortion care in Ireland with no time limits or gate keepers. We believe that pregnant people should have the same right to make decisions about their own lives and bodies as the rest of the population, including the right to choose and refuse medical treatment. Any abortion law adopted by Government must reflect this basic right. We want services that are accessible to everyone without barriers or stigma. The Irish public is pro-choice: when asked immediately after voting in the referendum, a majority agreed that “abortion should be freely available in Ireland to any woman who wants to have one.”
What is meant by Free Safe Legal?
- Available to everyone for free under the public healthcare system, including people in Northern Ireland. Read more about abortion and the North here.
- Easy to find and reasonably close to home so that no one has to pay for travel
- Accessible from a wide range of providers, not just the GP on your medical card
- Based on best medical evidence and practice
- Available as early as possible and as late as necessary
- Inclusive with respect to gender, language, disability, migration status, age
- Free of stigma, harassment, and intimidation – see our post on Safe Access Zones here.
- No longer a crime for anyone–patients, doctors, or anyone else who provides information or support. See our Decriminalisation post for more information.
Talking to your TD
Talk to your TD about why Free, Safe, Legal abortion matters to you! Abortion legislation in Ireland should maintain and/or include the following:
- Free universal abortion care for everyone in Ireland, including people who do not have PPS numbers and people in Northern Ireland
- Have no mandatory waiting period; these delays serve no medical purpose and have been shown to harm pregnant people
- Make sure doctors cannot refuse to care for someone who needs an abortion (no “conscientious objection”)
- Fully decriminalise abortion, for doctors and patients
- Doesn’t endanger women’s health with vague non-medical criteria like “serious risk” to health.
It’s also worth telling your TD if your circumstances mean you would be particularly affected by the restrictions. For example:
- Maybe you live in a rural area with limited access to GP care – your TDs need to know that it’s not acceptable for you to be refused care or denied a referral by your local GP if they happen to be anti-choice.
- Maybe you have a disability and the current mandatory three-day wait is an especially difficult barrier for you (Disabled People Together for Yes outline some of these issues here).
- Maybe you are trans or non-binary and are concerned that your access to abortion care could be affected by the Bill not being in line with the Gender Recognition Act.
- Maybe you are a member of a community whose access to medical care is compromised anyway, and you need assurances that the legislation guarantees you the care you need when you need it.
- Maybe you have a health condition and are unclear if the Bill’s reference to ‘serious risk to health’ enables you to access abortion care, if needed, after the limited 12-week period.
We know from the referendum that politicians pay attention to us when we tell them our stories and our experiences. If you are comfortable telling your TD specifically how the restrictions in the current legislation affect you, please do so. Those who oppose autonomy and choice will certainly make themselves heard. Don’t let them be the only voices in the conversation!
- Look up your representatives’ details at www.whoismytd.com
- Send a letter or email or call your TDs to tell them how you feel
- For the biggest impact, ask for a meeting for a longer conversation, or visit them during their office hours. Bring a friend!
- Remember, we elect TDs and pay their salaries! They are accountable to us.