In response to the publication today of the 2019 Annual report on abortion statistics by the outgoing Minister for Health, Amnesty welcomes the progress made for the 6,666 pregnant people who were able to access free, safe and legal abortion care in this country.
“Last year, 6,666 women and girls were able to receive abortion care within our own health system. To go from a country that exiled women seeking abortions two years ago, to one that is caring for them at home is such an important step forward. There are some wide variations in the numbers across counties, though. The new government must ensure abortion services are available and accessible to all pregnant people in the state,” said Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland.
“Healthcare providers have made this new abortion service happen, and we want to acknowledge the incredible work they have done to protect the rights of pregnant people in this country. The people of Ireland campaigned and change our Constitution. It is the people working within the health system who made it a reality. ”
“But some serious gaps remain in the legislation that are likely still forcing pregnant people to travel. One gap we previously highlighted is the high threshold of “serious harm” to a pregnant person’s health under what should be a general health ground. Another is the lack of access in cases of severe non-fatal foetal impairment diagnoses.”
In 2018 when the law was being debated, Amnesty warned that if these barriers were not addressed women and girls would be denied abortion care in Ireland that is their human right. Statistics published by the UK Department of Health and Social Care in early June revealed that 375 women and girls travelled from Ireland to access abortion services in England and Wales in 2019.
“We know that women’s health and wellbeing are harmed when they have to travel for abortion, and people voted to end that very harm. With the three-year review of our abortion law coming soon, we call on the new government to identify and close all gaps to make sure we don’t have hundreds of people still being forced to travel,” said Colm O’Gorman.
“Some gaps in the law can’t wait until the three-year review process to close. One is the long-promised legislation to create safe zones around healthcare facilities. Peaceful protesting is a human right; intimidating or harassing people seeking healthcare is not.”
At least 67 women ordinarily resident in Northern Ireland accessed abortions in Ireland in 2019. Historic law reform for Northern Ireland was passed by the UK Parliament in July 2019 and took effect in October 2019.
“Given that our new laws did not take effect until October 2019 and the framework for abortion services in March 2020, it’s not surprising that some opted to access this vital healthcare at home rather than travel to England. It is a stark reminder of the regime we leave behind. Women and girls can now access free, safe, legal and local abortion at home but this does not remove the need for our Department of Health to urgently commission services and ensure they are accessible to all who need them,” said Grainne Teggart, Northern Ireland Campaigns Manager for Amnesty International UK.