Monday, 28th May 2018
The Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) has called on the government to immediately repeal the 1995 Abortion Information Act and lift one of the major barriers to care for women with unintended pregnancies or pregnancies that have become a crisis.
IFPA Chief Executive Niall Behan said: "The referendum result sends a powerful message to women who experience crisis pregnancy: 1,429,981 people have given their public support to women’s private, personal decisions. The IFPA is a specialist provider of reproductive healthcare at the community level. We are absolutely committed to integrating abortion into our existing reproductive health services – pregnancy counselling, contraception and post-abortion services – so that women can receive the best possible care. And we look forward to working with the HSE to develop best practice guidelines for abortion care in Ireland, in line with the guidance of the World Health Organisation."
"However, until services are in place, women will still need to access abortion care in the UK and will still come to the IFPA for pregnancy counselling. There are some immediate actions that the government can take to ensure that the law no longer exacerbates the crisis for a woman who needs to end a pregnancy."
"The Regulation of Information (Services Outside the State for Termination of Pregnancies) Act 1995 remains in place," he said. "This means doctors cannot make medical referrals to clinics and hospitals in the UK, even if the woman has an underlying health complication. And our counsellors are constrained in the way they can give information by a law that is clearly in opposition to the will of the Irish people. Its immediate repeal will allow pregnancy counsellors to support women through their decision-making, free from the requirements of a law that stigmatises the decision to end a pregnancy."
Mr Behan also called on the government to immediately ensure that women and girls who purchase abortion pills can do so without the threat of prosecution.
"The threat of a draconian 14 year prison sentence has created a chilling effect. It means that women and girls who have no other option but to take illegal pills are afraid to seek medical care afterwards," Mr Behan said. "The government must at minimum announce an immediate moratorium on prosecutions for women who take the pill and anyone who aids them."
He added: "In the mean time, any woman who does self-manage her own abortion at home can be assured that she can come to the IFPA for post-abortion care without fear. We provide this free and confidential service at our clinics and through a network of GPs around the country."
Mr Behan said the government must ensure that women who access abortion care in Ireland in future can do so without suffering abuse from anti-choice protestors.
"We're calling the government to pass a law providing for safe zones around abortion service providers and maternity hospitals," he said. "This is essential given the disturbing conduct of anti-choice militants who have picketed IFPA clinics and maternity hospitals and have even resorted to violent tactics in their attempts to prevent women from accessing reproductive healthcare."
He concluded: "These people cannot be allowed to intimidate, harass and attack women and girls who are seeking care, or the staff who provide that care."