Concerns raised over rural access to abortion services

Photo by John Crowley

By Sarah Slevin

A Galway abortion rights group have been worried about barriers to accessing abortion services, especially in rural areas, ahead of a vital review of Ireland’s abortion laws.

Founder of Galway East For Choice, Susan McGrady, has emphasised that despite the laws being implemented in 2019, it is still difficult for people in rural areas to access abortion services due to poor transport services.

“From the point of view of people in Galway East, transport is not our greatest strength. When we say ‘free, safe, legal’, the local part is really important too”, she said.

In 2019, the repeal of the eighth amendment came into action following the referendum on the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018. This gave access to abortion services in the country for pregnancies up to 12 weeks.

Susan McGrady

Ms McGrady said that the implementation of telemedicine due to Covid-19 has made the services more accessible, but that the service needs to remain after Covid.

“Galway is so sprawling, and we know there isn’t enough providers of abortion services. Since the provision came in, people have had to travel to places that don’t have bus routes, so if you don’t have a car, you’re in awful trouble,” she said.

Another concern that has been raised by the movement are restrictions on the abortion services being re-introduced.

“We’re nervous enough in Galway about it, given that the three Galway East TDs were all opposed to the referendum in the first place,” she said.

“We don’t want anything rolled back. We don’t want further restrictions, that’s really important,” she said.

Galway East TD Sean Canney, who voted ‘No’ in the 2018 Abortion Referendum, has said that he did not want things to go backwards. He said instead that he would ask for more counselling to be provided.

“We need to review how it has been dealt with and find out if mothers are getting enough counselling before they do it and if they’re getting informed of all the services that are available if they were to hold onto the baby,” he said.

He also highlighted a survey published last year that was carried out by researchers in University College Cork. The survey involved a series of interviews with doctors carrying out abortions in Ireland and the TD said it highlighted that some cases had “gruesome” details.

“We need to offer training to staff and end-of-life care and palliative care to the mother and to the fetus and that’s something that we need to make sure is done,” Mr Canney said.

Ms McGrady said that even though the legislation is in place, there are still barriers for people.

“There are still so many people that have barriers to accessing abortions and that’s not what we’re here for. We’re here to see that there is free, safe, legal, local access to abortion healthcare and until we have that we’re not going away,” she said.

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