'Unfinished Business' demonstration taking place in Dublin on fourth anniversary of Repeal the Eighth

'Unfinished Business' demonstration taking place in Dublin on fourth anniversary of Repeal the Eighth

THE NATIONAL Women's Council (NWC) of Ireland is calling on the government to address the lack of nationwide abortion services which it says is severely impacting women and pregnant people's access to care.

It comes on the fourth anniversary of Ireland voting to repeal the Eighth Amendment of the constitution which had been signed into law more than three decades earlier.

The Eighth Amendment recognised 'the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn,' and had been added to the constitution in 1983 following a referendum in which 69.9 per cent of voters supported its insertion.

In 2018, 66.4 per cent of voters voted for its removal.

Now, the NWC says that its analysis of HSE data shows that only one in ten GPs around the country is offering abortion care and not all of them are able to make referrals through My Options, the HSE's unplanned pregnancy support service for the general public.

50% of counties have less than ten GPs offering abortion services and only four out of 26 counties have a well-developed community network of providers.

The NWC also says there is a rural divide when it comes to abortion services, with provision strong in Cork, Galway and Dublin but less developed in areas such as Mayo, Wexford, Westmeath, Longford and Carlow.

The data was discussed at a seminar to mark the anniversary of the Repeal referendum which took place in the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin with speakers including Amy Dunne, aka ‘Miss D', Dr Marion Dyer, GP and member of START and Doctors for Choice, Christina Zampas, Centre for Reproductive Rights and Orla O’Connor, Director of NWC.

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.

"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."

At 17, Amy Dunne was pregnant with a baby who had a fatal abnormality. She was given a pseudonym and became the focus of a landmark Irish legal case which resulted in her right to travel to the UK for an abortion trumping the right to life of her unborn child.

In recent years she has become vocal about her story, saying today that she was speaking "to help ensure that no woman has to travel abroad for basic healthcare that she should be able to receive at home."

"I want to see our legislation changed so that doctors in Ireland can put the woman and her needs first and provide the care she needs without fear of criminal prosecution. What is happening today is not what people voted for four years ago.”

The webinar was followed by a gathering of Repeal campaigners outside Dáil Eireann to mark the anniversary of Repeal and call for urgent measures to address the ‘unfinished business’ of abortion care in Ireland. Similar initiatives were happening across Ireland to mark the Repeal anniversary.