Ireland’s abortion regime to be scrutinised by British politicians
Inquiry will focus on issues relating to women travelling from Ireland to Britain
Lord Alfred Dubs announced the inquiry. Photograph: Jack Taylor/Getty Images
A fresh inquiry into Ireland’s abortion regime will be undertaken by a group of British and Irish politicians.
A committee of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly, chaired by former Northern Ireland Office minister Lord Alfred Dubs, will focus on issues relating to women travelling from Ireland to Britain to seek terminations.
Lord Dubs announced the inquiry into the “cross-jurisdictional” implications of abortion policy at the assembly meeting in Kilkenny on Tuesday.
He cited UK government statistics showing 12 women a day travelled from Ireland to Britain to have abortions in 2014 and said it was estimated 3,500 Irish women went abroad for terminations every year.
The assembly is made up of TDs, Senators, British MPs and members of the House of Lords.
It also includes members of the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales, as well as representatives from the Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey.
Lord Dubs noted there was significant policy and regulatory divergence across the jurisdictions.
He said a topical issue across the jurisdictions was the increasing online availability of abortion pills.
With an Irish referendum on abortion scheduled for 2018, he said the assembly committee’s inquiry should “complement, rather than conflict with” the work of the Oireachtas committee on the eighth amendment, which will begin public meetings in September.
Fine Gael Senator Catherine Noone, chairwoman of the Oireachtas committee, also sits on the assembly committee along with Fine Gael TD Tony McLoughlin, Fianna Fáil Senator Diarmuid Wilson, Independent Senator Victor Boyhan and representatives from the other parliaments.
The assembly committee is expected to visit Dublin and Belfast and to gather evidence on the situation in Britain.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar recently said the eighth amendment, which enshrined the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn into the Constitution in 1983, should be replaced with something else because it is too restrictive.
The Oireachtas committee has a deadline of three months from its first public meeting to complete its work and make a recommendation on referendum wording to Government.
Last month the UK government announced women from Northern Ireland would be given access to terminations by the NHS in England, following a proposal by Labour MP Stella Creasy.