On the first anniversary of the landslide vote to repeal the Eighth Amendment, the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) says Ireland cannot be truly proud of repeal until we have a law that fully guarantees access to abortion care to all women who need it.
The IFPA has been providing abortion care at its clinics in Dublin City Centre and Tallaght since the first week of January. IFPA Medical Director, Dr Caitriona Henchion said: “We see at first-hand what this means for our clients. For most of them, the financial burden of travelling and paying for private care in another country is gone. Abortion care has become part of normal healthcare, as it should be.”
But despite the positives, the IFPA says abortion reform is far from complete.
IFPA CEO Niall Behan said: “Although the situation for women requesting abortion in Ireland has been significantly improved, the inclusion of criminal provisions means that the Health (Termination of Pregnancy) Act is not fully human rights compliant. Doctors shouldn’t have to grapple with criminal law when they’re caring for patients.”
Mr Behan continued, “The appealing myth about repeal is that all women who need an abortion can get the care they need in Ireland. This is simply not the case. We are still relying on UK services to care for women who cannot access abortion before the 12-week cut-off for abortion on request, and do not fall into the limited grounds for abortion after 12 weeks.
“These are women who were unaware they were pregnant, or whose pregnancy became a crisis because of relationship issues, because of financial problems, or for any number of complex reasons,” he continued. “And it includes women who experience a failed medical abortion close to 12 weeks gestation and are then barred under the legislation from terminating the pregnancy.
“We cannot be truly proud of repeal until we have a law that fully guarantees access to abortion care to all women who need it.”
Although women from Northern Ireland have been given a HSE helpline number to call, this helpline does not provide them with information on the medical, financial and legal risks involved in travelling to the republic for abortion care.
The IFPA is continuing to press the Department of Health to implement the ancillary recommendations of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment – including the provision of free contraception and the introduction of comprehensive sexuality education for all young people.
“The Minister for Health made commitments to enhancing reproductive choice: this process needs to be accelerated and we look forward to engaging with the Department’s working group on free contraception,” said Mr Behan.
“There is no one-size-fits-all solution and it’s imperative that the provision of free contraception isn’t limited,” added Dr Henchion. “Women need to be able to access the most suitable and effective contraception for them. This means all forms of contraception – especially long-acting reversible methods – must be free at the point of access.”