Gender in Ireland: Abortion Post-Referendum
When the eighth was repealed, this set-in motion the process of legislating for abortions in Ireland, with the government outlining plans to have a law in place by the 1st of January, 2019. This was a short space of time for a piece of legislation to move through the two houses of the Irish government, particularly one as decisive as this. The urgency of the bill was clear, as the whole country was aware that many women would still be forced to travel for healthcare as it was being finalised. There were concerns from the healthcare providers about their ability to provide such a service in a short space of time, in a system which is already under pressure. There were also attempts by anti-choice politicians and groups to limit the bill. In one particularly demeaning debate in the Dáil, 9 pro-life TDs put forward an amendment to the bill that would require women to bury or cremate a foetus after having an abortion. Thankfully, this was not accepted by the majority of the Dáil, and was not included in the final legislation. Unfortunately, a proposal to remove the proposed 3 day waiting period from initial consultation with a doctor to being allowed a termination was retained in the bill, as was limiting the gestational period to 12 weeks. Both of these stipulations could negatively impact on many individuals’ ability to access a termination.
With 2018 drawing to a close, and little sign of an agreement on legislation, pro-choice groups voiced their concern that this deadline would not be met. However, the 20th of December, after passing through both houses of the government, the bill was signed into law by President Michael D. Higgins.
We are now in the second month of 2019, and abortion has been legal in Ireland for just over a month. It is now possible for people who need abortions to access safe, legal healthcare in their own community, however, that is not to say it is without barriers.
Unfortunately, exclusion zones were not included in the legislation which came into effect in January. While abortions are not currently taking place in specific centres, such as in the UK and US, but instead in certain GP practices and maternity hospitals, pro-life groups can access information about which doctors are providing the service. A helpline that was set up to provide people with information on where to access abortions has been used by pro-life groups to identify practices providing abortions, in order to then protest outside of those practices. This has provoked huge outcry among the general population and among the GP community, as they have said that patients feel intimidated and scared when coming in to the practice, past the protesters.
In a more recent instance, one woman who had an abortion put up a Facebook post, in which she explained that after having her abortion, she was contacted by a number saying she needed to have an extra scan, and to come to a specific location. When she rang the number back, she was shouted at by the individual on the phone, who was in fact a pro-life individual who had the intention of luring women to a location in order to dissuade them from having an abortion. This is currently under investigation, as it is unclear how this individual got the contact details of the woman in question in the first place.
We are not even a year after the landslide victory for the pro-choice movement, however people who wish to deny Irish women bodily autonomy are continuing their crusade. It is important that we fight for further legislation which will ensure the safety, privacy and dignity of people who need to have an abortion.