UK charity Abortion Support Network responds to Ireland’s report on abortions carried out in 2019, 30 June 2020
Abortion Support Network (ASN) is pleased to see that Ireland has published the “Notifications in Accordance with Section 20 of the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy” Act 2018.
The numbers show that terminations included 6,542 for early pregnancy, 100 for condition likely to lead to death of foetus, 21 for risk to life or health, 3 for risk to life or health in an emergency, for a total of 6,666 abortions carried out in Ireland under Irish law.
This number does not include the 375 women and pregnant people who gave Irish addresses at UK clinics in 2019, or the unknown numbers of people who obtained early medical abortion pills via providers such as Women Help Women and Women on Web.
We are happy to see that so many women and pregnant people have been able to access care, legally, in their home country. This number is, in some way, a victory for every person who campaigned and voted to repeal the 8th amendment and we are grateful to all those providing this essential medical care.
However, we would like to point out that these statistics are not representative of the entire story. When it works, abortion provision is beautiful. But when it does not work, it can be very problematic.
Following are some of the people who have contacted us since 2 January 2019:
- Women who are less than 3 days over the legal limit, delayed by needed scans to prove gestation and the medically unnecessary three-day waiting period;
- Women who did an early medical abortion in Ireland which did not work, and then had to travel to England at their own expense;
- People over 12 weeks who need a visa to travel to the UK or EU;
- Women and couples with pregnancies diagnosed with terrible but not terrible enough for 2 doctors to certify that the baby will die within 28 days of birth foetal abnormalities;
- Those same women and couples told by doctors to delay travelling for more and more and more tests, even though the tests will neither allow an abortion in Ireland nor show a healthy baby, meaning the travel and procedure increase in price;
- People without a home or a safe space where they live to spend hours having a miscarriage and exhibiting the associated symptoms;
- People delayed in accessing care by rogue crisis pregnancy centres;
- Women who received wildly inaccurate pregnancy scans which meant they were much further than thought when they travelled (and in some cases, scanned over the legal limit in England);
- Women delayed by anti-choice GPs who lie to them and say they are not pregnant, were never pregnant, must have miscarried, but . . . who are pregnant.
We also have a concern that people over 12 weeks are not given the information they need to access support needed to travel abroad. When we looked at what services would be needed in Ireland post-provision of legal abortion services, we made a conservative estimate that 600-800 people would still need to travel. This would have been a mix of people unable to access care prior to 12 weeks, and people who did not discover their pregnancy until after the 12th week. We also expected there to be a number of women and couples with pregnancies with foetal indication would not fit the extremely restrictive criteria for terminations in Ireland. ASN would like it known that we are here for anyone in Ireland for whom it is impossible or even difficult to access care in country.
We are very proud of Ireland’s abortion law and provision. However, it can and should be better. The three year review of the law is due to happen in May 2121.
We ask the following:
- End the mandatory, but medically unnecessary, three day waiting period.
- Ensure provision of MVA or surgical abortions for those who are less able to have abortion with pills.
- Automatically provide a surgical abortion for anyone who has had a failed early medical abortion, even if that person is above 12 weeks into pregnancy.
- Quality check scanning facilities (we had one woman told she was “15 to 17 weeks” when she was over 20 weeks. Another scanned at 12 weeks 3 days in Ireland and 9 weeks 4 days a week later in England).
- Get rid of the 12-week time limit altogether.
- Change the criteria for abortion for foetal abnormality. Give people all the information to hand and allow them to make informed choices based on factual, medical information and what they know about their family circumstance and abilities.
- Remove all criminalisation from the law. Except for rogue pregnancy centres. Make those illegal. And put in buffer zones around abortion clinics and providers.
- Make sure there is a clear pathway for people who cannot access an abortion in Ireland, even if that pathway is “call Abortion Support Network.”
We celebrate the results of this report. But we know that provision – and the legislation – can be better.
Press Contact: Mara Clarke, +44 (0) 7913 353 530, [email protected]
NOTES TO EDITORS
Full report available here: https://assets.gov.ie/78445/ed81dafb-963c-4e1c-ba29-98cce5118d7c.pdf
Abortion Support Network (ASN) is a charity that provides financial assistance, confidential, non-judgmental information and accommodation in volunteer homes to people forced to travel from Ireland, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man, Malta, Gibraltar and Poland and pay privately for abortions in England. The cost ranges from £400 to £2000 or more depending on circumstance and stage of pregnancy. While many organisations campaign for much needed law reform, ASN is the only group providing those travelling for abortions with the thing they need most immediately: money. www.asn.org.uk