Wednesday, May 25, 2022

On the fourth anniversary of Repeal the 8th, the National Women’s Council (NWC) has called on the Government to address the lack of nationwide abortion services which is severely impacting women and pregnant people’s access to care.

As reported by the Roscommon Herald, an analysis of HSE data by NWC found that currently less than 10 GPs are offering abortion services in Roscommon and Mayo.

The NWC says that the figures for Roscommon and Mayo and could potentially be as low as one as HSE data was provided in ranges.
Additionally, only 11 out of 19 maternity hospitals are currently providing full abortion services in line with the law. Research by Dr Lorraine Grimes and the Abortion Rights Campaign suggests service users are travelling considerable distances to access care – 30% of survey respondents who have used the service since 2019 reported travel of four-six hours to access abortion care.

Commenting on the findings and their significance in the context of the ongoing abortion review, Orla O’Connor, Director of NWC said: “We know that women and pregnant people from every single county in Ireland need abortions. Four years on from Repeal, it’s not acceptable that the provision of care is so patchy and piecemeal, something which is particularly affecting rural areas. We need the Government to prioritise community-wide provision of abortion that allows for local, accessible care for all those who need it.

“Significant challenges remain in the current provision of abortion services. This includes mandatory wait periods and a restrictive 12-week gestational limit on early medical abortion. Barriers are also linked to the narrow definition of fatal fetal anomalies and the ongoing criminalisation of doctors, contrary to WHO guidelines. It is critical that the Government uses the current abortion review to address these issues as an urgent matter for women’s reproductive health.”

Dr Marion Dyer, GP and member of START and Doctors for Choice said:  “While our abortion legislation has undoubtedly been of huge benefit to women’s health in Ireland, poor coverage of services continues to be a significant barrier to timely access to care. Half of counties have less than 10 GPs providing care which is particularly concerning in areas such as Wexford and Mayo where there is a large population. As a GP, I am also extremely concerned that so far only 11 out of 19 maternity hospitals are providing the full range of abortion services.

“We urgently need to ensure better coverage. This will only be achieved if we fully decriminalise abortion as part of the abortion review to remove the chilling effect on doctors and healthcare providers. We also must ensure there is a supportive and enabling environment that encourages more GPs and hospital-based practitioners into the system. First and foremost, this requires the urgent introduction of the Safe Access Zone legislation. But it also necessitates enhanced training and support, with resources deployed as required.”

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