Minister playing for time on abortion review

08 December 2021

Labour Senator and health committee member Annie Hoey said the inability of the Minister for Health to provide a single straight answer regarding the abortion review under questioning is deeply worrying. Highlighting the many areas that need to be examined during the review, Senator Hoey said the Minister cannot continue to push women’s healthcare aside.

Senator Hoey said:

“We have been waiting for this review for over three years to ensure the effectiveness of the legislation for pregnant people seeking access to abortion here in Ireland. It’s deeply concerning that the Minister of Health arrived at committee this morning without sending any supporting documentation in advance and gave conflicting answers on issues raised. It strikes me as a Minister ill-prepared and unbothered by effective protection for women’s reproductive healthcare rights.

“Indeed, the past three years now appear to have been a fudge by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil eager to kick the can down the road on this issue. Rather than the review reflecting what needs to be changed legislatively to better facilitate access to abortions, it now appears that this review is simply focusing on the piece of legislation without a view to revising or amending it. This has come as a surprise to many who were under the impression that the review would consider issues like the three day wait and twelve week limit.

“When I questioned the Minister if he would be proposing amendments to our abortion legislation if recommended by the review, the Minister could only reply “Possibly”. It’s striking that the Minister tasked with the operations of the review is entirely unclear as to its purpose.

“This lack of clarity and detail is a part of a recurrent pattern from this Minister. Last week, under questioning from my colleagues Alan Kelly and Rebecca Moynihan, the Minister was unable to answer if women travelling for abortion would be exempt from the pandemic related travel rules. Due to the 12 week rule in place in Ireland regarding abortion, we know that there are many women who are still having to travel out of Ireland for certain abortion and healthcare services. It is extremely concerning that our own Minister for Health cannot provide clarity for these women.

“Despite the Minister’s assertions earlier this year that exclusion zones were not required, we in the Labour Party remain committed to protect women, partners and workers coming and going into hospital who are subjected to protestors. We also need to ensure that there is widespread provision of abortion so that women throughout the country and particularly in rural Ireland can access abortions locally.

“Repealing the 8th amendment was only the beginning. We need to look at ways to make abortion easily and safely accessible for those who need it. For example, we need to retain telemedicine that has been made available during the lockdowns as it has been hugely helpful in removing physical and financial barriers to abortion access.

“For too long, women’s health has come second in Irish healthcare. There are countless healthcare tragedies in our recent history that disproportionately affect women in Ireland, including the death of Savita Halappanaver in 2012. The Minister needs to step up and take proper interest in this review to achieve meaningful change for the women of Ireland.”

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