Criminalising abortion only increases mortality, seminar told

‘Women-centred healthcare’: Experts discuss liberalisation of Ireland’s abortion laws

Best healthcare practice includes sexuality education, affordable contraception and the provision of safe and high-quality abortion, an international seminar in Dublin has been told.

The seminar, attended by international medical experts, addressed reform of Ireland’s abortion laws and developing “women-centred healthcare”.

It was timed to coincide the publication of Judge Mary Laffoy’s report on the Citizens’ Assembly, expected to be released later on Thursday, the event heard.

A majority of the members of the Citizens’ Assembly voted to allow for abortion in all 13 circumstances considered by the body at its final meeting in April.


Among the speakers at the seminar was Sir Sabaratnam Arulkumaran, who chaired the inquiry into the death of Savita Halappanavar - who was denied a life-saving abortion at a Galway hospital .

Sir Sabaratnam said: “Criminalisation of abortion only increases mortality, without decreasing incidence of induced abortions.”

He said liberalisation of abortion laws was favoured by the World Health Organisation (Who) and the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics.

Dr Gilda Sedgh, researcher at the Guttmacher Institute - a policy organisation in the field of sexual and reproductive health - said countries with the lowest abortion rates, and those where rates have declined the most, were those with liberal abortion laws.

Dr Caitriona Henchion, medical director of the Irish Family Planning Association, said women’s healthcare experience in relation to unintended and crisis pregnancy falls far below the standards applied to all other areas of medical practice.

"Ireland cannot continue to tolerate this situation. Abortion must be integrated into reproductive healthcare in line with best international healthcare practice," she said.

The seminar was chaired by Dr Jennifer Donnelly, Consultant Obstetrician/Gynaecologist at the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin.

It was organised on behalf of the All-Party Oireachtas Interest Group on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights by the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA), the secretariat of the group.

Chair of the group, Jan O’Sullivan TD, said it was imperative to hear decades of international research on reviewing, evaluating, developing and implementing good reproductive healthcare.

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist