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10th June 2021, 14:53:06 UTC

Statistics published today by the UK Department of Health and Social care showing that 194 women and girls travelled from Ireland to access abortion services in England and Wales in 2020 reveal the harmful barriers in our abortion law, Amnesty International Ireland said.

“The fact that 194 people were forced to travel, especially in the midst of a global pandemic, shows that people are clearly still falling through cracks in Ireland’s abortion law. We and others warned that gaps and barriers in this law would prevent pregnant people from accessing the healthcare they need in Ireland. That is not what people voted for in the referendum three years ago,” said Colm O Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland.

“It is unacceptable that women and girls are still having to travel abroad for something that is their human right to have access to here. Having to travel can have serious impacts on physical and mental health, along with huge financial and other burdens.

“We sought and welcomed the inclusion of a three-year review clause in the new law. That review will take place this year. While it is too late for those who had to travel in the years since the law came into force, the government has to ensure that gaps and barriers in this law and abortion care are addressed during the review.

“One critical gap in the law is the lack of provision of access in cases of pregnancies with severe rather than fatal foetal impairments. In 2018, 3 per cent of those travelling to the UK to access abortion were doing so on the ground of foetal anomaly. In 2019, it was 17 per cent and it 2020, it was 32 per cent. Other concerns are the potentially high and ambiguous threshold created by the language on ‘serious harm’ to a woman’s health, and the mandatory waiting period for early medical abortion.

“The criminalisation of health professionals must be removed, so the chilling effect this brings will not impact decisions on women’s healthcare. We also urgently need the long-promised safe zones around healthcare facilities so that pregnant people can access abortion care in safety and dignity.”