Groups like ours helped fight for inclusive, accessible healthcare. Together, we achieved a culture change. But there's a phenomenal amount still to doby Anna Carnegie / January 10, 2019 / Leave a comment
Last year, on May 25th 2018, the Irish public voted emphatically to repeal the country’s constitutional ban on abortion and enable the passage of legislation to provide abortion on request up to 12 weeks of pregnancy, and in limited circumstances thereafter.
The months since the referendum were a whirlwind of court challenges, parliamentary debates, marches, and media coverage. Finally, on the 13th December, the Irish senate passed the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018, paving the way for a new law and signifying a much welcome, and long overdue, step forward. On the 20th, President Michael D Higgins signed the bill into law.
While all of this was happening, nothing, practically, changed for people in the Republic of Ireland who need abortions. In the nearly 7 months since the country voted for healthcare at home, almost 2,000 people travelled to England and other jurisdictions to access abortion services. More than 500 more—often those lacking the means or ability to travel—imported and taken safe but illegal abortion pills despite the risk of prosecution.
Highlighting this reality, these stories, has been a crucial aspect of the Abortion Rights Campaign since our formation, and this focus has not stopped since the vote. Now that the legislation has passed, we are eager to see pregnant people be given access to the care they were promised.
This is not to say that the legislation is perfect. Far from it; the Bill departs from the “free, safe, legal and local” standard of care Ireland deserves.
During last summer, when draft legislation was proposed by the Irish Health Minister, the Abortion Rights Campaign set out our vision for accessible, accountable and evidence-based abortion legislation which respects the bodily autonomy of each pregnant person and leaves no one behind.
We advocated against the imposition of a mandatory 3-day waiting period, which has no basis in medical evidence and creates unnecessary barriers for pregnant people. We argued for the full decriminalisation of abortion, so that medical practitioners would not interpret the law overly-cautiously so as to avoid criminal sanctions including up to 14 years in prison.
We emphasised the importance of patient-centered care, and the problems which arise…