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11th June 2020, 16:44:39 UTC

Statistics published today by the UK Department of Health and Social care showing that 375 women and girls travelled from Ireland to access abortion services in England and Wales in 2019 reveal the harmful barriers in our new abortion law, Amnesty International Ireland said.

“In the first year of our new abortion law’s operation, women are clearly falling through its cracks. We and others warned that gaps and barriers in this law would prevents pregnant people from accessing the healthcare they need in 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 brings can have serious impacts on physical and mental health, along with huge financial and other burdens,” said Colm O Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland.

“We call on the new government to ensure gaps and barriers in this law and abortion care are addressed. We sought and welcomed the inclusion of a three-year review clause in the new law. The parties negotiating a possible Programme for Government must include a commitment that the review will ensure our law and abortion service are fully human rights compliant. But it very clear today that more immediate gaps cannot wait until 2021 to be corrected. We hope not to see women continuing to travel for much longer. That is not what people voted for in the 25 May 2018 referendum.

“One critical gap 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. 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.”