Irish women aborting later due to lack of service access
Oireachtas committee to hear need to travel to UK may delay presentation for abortion
Consultant psychiatrist at the National Maternity Hospital Anthony McCarthy: “As doctors we must be aware of the complexities involved for everyone, and listen and not prejudge.” Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Irish women are accessing abortions in the later stage of their pregnancies due to the difficulties in accessing services, an Oireachtas committee is to be told.
The committee assessing the Eighth Amendment will hear from senior law lecturer in medical law from University of London Ruth Fletcher on Wednesday.
According to Ms Fletcher, statistics show 92 per cent of women in the UK access abortion at less than 13 weeks into gestation.
Irish women are accessing abortion later because they must travel, she adds.
“If the legal regime moved to a domestic-on-request model, then women would likely access abortion at earlier stages, as elsewhere, although there will always be a need for later access for a small number of cases.
“For many people, a law which has the effect of helping to make earlier abortion more likely than later abortion, is, in effect, more respectful of prenatal life if it reduces the rate of later abortion.”
In her statement to the committee, Ms Fletcher examines the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly. In line with the recommendations of the assembly, Ms Fletcher advises abortion could be available on request up to 12 weeks, while approval of a doctor could be required up to 22 weeks.After that juncture, two doctors can agree to terminate a pregnancy if there is a risk to the life or the health of the mother.
Ms Fletcher said cases of fatal foetal abnormality should be defined legally as a risk to a pregnant person’s health.
Consultant psychiatrist at the National Maternity Hospital Anthony McCarthy will also tell the committee that abortion can not be “wished away”.
He will say in his opening statement that it is still a reality, even in the absence of medical emergencies and life-threatening indications.
“It has been a part of the history of every country, including Ireland, ” he will say. “We don’t want to go back to an era of illegal backstreet abortions and infanticide.”
He will stress the personal nature of the choice to have abortion: “As doctors we must be aware of the complexities involved for everyone, and listen and not prejudge.”