Need to ensure safe access to abortion for all who need it
Marking the third anniversary of the repeal referendum which brought about legalisation of abortion for women in Ireland, Senator Ivana Bacik has urged Government to carry out a robust review of the legislation, and to commit to carrying out a process of genuine engagement with service users themselves. Senator Bacik also said that the Government must act urgently to introduce safe access laws for women, as promised in the Programme for Government.
Senator Bacik said:
“Three years have now passed since the historic vote to repeal of the 8th amendment. I am proud to have been heavily involved in the pro-repeal campaign from my student days when I, along with other student union officers, were threatened with prison for providing information on abortion in 1989. The Together for Yes campaign to repeal the 8th Amendment represented a great example of individuals, groups and political parties coming together to stand up for women’s reproductive health rights. The resounding vote for repeal – 66.4% yes – showed just how much public support exists to enable choice for women. While progress has been achieved, however, there is still work to be done. The review of the legislation currently ongoing is very important, and we must see genuine engagement from women who are using termination of pregnancy services themselves.
“In particular, we know that women are still having to travel out of Ireland for certain abortion and healthcare services. We must identify where obstacles to accessing abortion services may still exist, and why some women are still not receiving adequate reproductive healthcare. The lack of access to abortion services in some counties also presents a significant barrier. The Government must ensure that services are adequately resourced so as to make sure that women have access regardless of means or location.
“Further, the need for ensuring safe access zones outside healthcare facilities remains a huge issue that must be dealt with in any meaningful review of the legislation. Since the passage of the new abortion law in 2019, many of us in opposition have been asking the Minister for Health to take action to protect women and their partners from intimidation as they enter GP surgeries and hospitals. Exclusion Zones restricting gatherings designed to intimidate and obstruct access to abortion services are already in effect in other countries, including parts of Canada, Australia, and the US. The Together for Safety campaign group has been very vocal in calling for the introduction of Exclusion Zones. A commitment to do this is in the Programme for Government. This commitment must be implemented as soon as possible to prevent increased distress for women experiencing crisis pregnancy who seek to access legal services.
“The arbitrary 72 hour wait period for a termination must also be removed. This waiting period is hugely conservative by European standards. This arbitrary time restriction is not medically necessary, and represents an unduly restrictive condition obstructing women’s access to healthcare.
“Our repeal of the 8th amendment on 25 May 2018 marked a significant step forward for women’s rights in Ireland. However, further change is needed to meet the reproductive healthcare needs of women in Ireland more fully. The Government review must carry out genuine stakeholder engagement, with organisations including the Irish Family Planning Association and others, to ensure safe access to abortion for all who need it.”