“WHILE the repeal of the Eighth Amendment was a fantastic achievement by everybody involved, the struggle for abortion rights is not over by a long shot.”
That is according to Sam Boland, a member of the Cork-based abortion rights campaign group Rebels4Choice.
Mr Boland was speaking in the wake of figures recently published by the health department in the UK, which show that 194 people from Ireland travelled to access abortion services in England and Wales last year.
Of these people, 12 gave a Cork address. Some 85 people did not state what county they travelled from.
Speaking to The Echo, Mr Boland said people continued to face barriers in accessing abortion in Ireland more than three years after the vote to repeal the Eighth Amendment.
“Probably the most common barrier that the people who have travelled to Britain for abortions have encountered is the 12-week limit, I would imagine,” he said.
“By the time anyone finds out that they’re pregnant or has an inkling that they’re pregnant, it’s at least four weeks already and that’s only for people who have regular periods. That time runs out very quickly.”
Mr Boland was also critical of the three-day waiting period, which he said was not only patronising to people looking to avail of abortion care, but also an onerous requirement for some people to comply with.
He also highlighted the lack of abortion providers in Ireland.
“Three years on from the vote to repeal the Eighth, only half of the maternity hospitals in Ireland provide abortions,” he said.
“There are some counties that have no abortion provider at all — Sligo, for example.
“The legislation is up for review later this year. The changes that need to be made are many.”
Mr Boland said it would be important that the review process would be an independent, expert-led process.
“For abortion rights campaigners, like ourselves, our concern is that it’s just going to be a box-ticking exercise,” he said.
Irish Family Planning Association chief executive Niall Behan said the statistics from the UK show “a clear unmet need for abortion care in Ireland”.
“The pandemic has exacerbated the harms of denying abortion care, but women will still have to travel when the pandemic is over,” he said.
“This will still be cruel, inhumane and degrading, an unacceptable infringement on women’s right to respect for reproductive autonomy and self-determination.
“As society looks forward to once more taking the right to travel for granted, we can’t forget those on whom travel for abortion care is imposed by the law.
“The needs of these women should be central to the forthcoming review of the 2018 Act.”