Galway people have been urged to contribute to an upcoming public consultation on Ireland’s abortion laws.
It comes as there is a review planned of the abortion act, with public submissions closing on 1 April.
The current regulations set by the act permit the termination of pregnancy in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and later in cases where the pregnant woman’s life is at risk, or in the case of a fatal foetal abnormality.
Galway Pro-Choice, who is part of the wider organisation, the Abortion Rights Campaign (ARC) said that those receiving a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality are one of the groups “disproportionately affected by the Eighth Amendment” and that “very little has changed post-repeal”.
The current act requires women to wait three days between their first and second appointment. The reason behind this three-day waiting period is so medical professionals can certify that the patient is no more than 12 weeks pregnant.
Convener for the ARC, JoAnne Neary said that the gestational limits set in place by the current act are not only restrictive, but in contravention of UN human rights law.
Ms Neary said the system is currently riddled with medically unnecessary delays and barriers and that women are being subjected to “cruel and inhumane treatment”.
“For example, the three-day compulsory wait, there are no medical benefits to it whatsoever. It’s in the context of very strict gestational limits, but we have a very restrictive legislation. It has a very profound impact, especially regarding travel.”
Under the act, any abortion procedure carried out by a doctor, outside of the parameters laid down by the legislation, is a criminal offence punishable by up to 14 years imprisonment.
As a result, the ARC are anxious that the fear of going to prison might make a medical professional reluctant to provide abortion care in cases where the law is unclear.
A study conducted by the ARC found that only 12% of GPs are currently providing abortion care, and only 10 out of 19 maternity hospitals in Ireland provide full abortion services.
The study also focused on women’s experiences of abortion care in Ireland, and some 19% of women sampled claimed that they had issues with refusal of care.
At present, medical professionals can refuse to provide abortion care on the grounds of “conscientious objection”. According to the ARC, these refusals are not being tracked by the HSE, therefore it is unclear how many women are actually being refused care.
The ARC recommends that abortion is fully decriminalised, that the three-day waiting period is abolished, and the removal of refusal of care on the grounds of “conscientious objection”.
“We need to switch our thinking away from it being a moral issue, because this is a healthcare issue. We need to ensure that all the supports are in place to encourage providers to do this, so they have no reason to fear,” said Ms Neary.
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