Postcode lottery of abortion services has real life consequences for vulnerable women

Senator Annie Hoey image
03 April 2023

Labour Senator and Oireachtas Health Committee member Annie Hoey has urged the swift publication of the report into the review of the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018.

Calling for stakeholders to be invited to Committee to discuss the findings, Senator Hoey said rapid changes to the legislation must be implemented without delay.

Senator Hoey said:

“Almost five years ago, people voted overwhelmingly for free, safe, legal and local abortion services. The postcode lottery of services, as described by Dr Deirdre Duffy, is utterly disgraceful, and it placing enormous stress and strain on women during an already vulnerable time.

“Research has shown that hardly any GPs providing abortion services outside of the main urban areas which is having a shocking impact on the provision of abortion nationwide. We know that there are 13 counties in which less than 10 GPs provide abortion care, and we are aware that many counties have no GPs providing services.

“The consequences of this are two-fold.

“Women seeking abortion are faced with very long wait times to get an appointment, up to two weeks for the initial consultation in many cases. This is having the traumatic effect of women being forced to continue with a pregnancy they have resolved to terminate longer than they should have to, and, potentially pushing them over the twelve week limit for terminating a pregnancy,

“Coupled with this cruel reality, the lack of services throughout the country makes a very difficult and traumatic time even more distressing, with many women reporting spending hours on the phone to just find one GP with availability to provide abortion services.

“We need to see the reform and amendment of the 2018 Act and of reproductive healthcare policies, to ensure that the needs of women who require improved access to abortion services are addressed; and that the barriers to access identified are removed.

“Crucially, we must see the three-day waiting period repealed. It disproportionately affects abortion access for those who live outside of urban areas, in places where there are limited or no abortion providers, and who are financially or socially vulnerable.

“The 12-week limit must also be extended and this must be coupled with an amended definition of a condition likely to lead to the death of a foetus. This provision is unduly restrictive and imposes an arbitrary time period upon doctors’ capacity to diagnose fatal foetal conditions.

“The effect of the provision has been that, as research published by the National Women’s Council and TFMR has shown, women and couples have had to continue to travel outside the country, often in the most difficult of personal circumstances after a heart-breaking medical diagnosis, to end their pregnancies.

“Almost five years have passed, there should be no further delay in providing abortion services nationwide. As it is, abortion is one of the few services that a patient already must worry about being provided for by their GP – only 10% of GPs nationally are providing at the moment. There’s no time for further delay by this conservative coalition.”

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