The Minister has yet to appoint an independent expert, finalise terms of reference or provide a time-frame for the review
The failure of the Minister for Health to appoint an independent expert to review the State’s abortion law is deeply concerning, according to Social Democrats TD Holly Cairns.
“Under section 7 of the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act, a review of the law must be initiated by January 2022. Despite this, the Minister has yet to appoint an independent expert, finalise terms of reference or provide a time-frame for that review – with barely six weeks to go.
“Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly first informed the cabinet that he was commencing a review of the law back in March. It is deeply concerning that, eight months later, this review has yet to begin. It is also alarming that, to date, we have no idea of the kind of independent expert the Minister intends to appoint – legal or medical – and no information about the appointment process.
“The State’s abortion law was first commenced in January 2019 and, despite its largely positive impact, a number of problems with its operation have become apparent. These issues predominantly concern access, with research published earlier this year revealing just one in ten GPs were offering abortion services while just 50pc of hospitals offering full abortion services.
“We also know that last year, at the height of the pandemic, nearly 200 women and girls travelled abroad to Britain to access abortion services. It is vital that we examine why these women are travelling abroad and review any unduly restrictive sections of the legislation that may be denying women care in this country.
“The failure of the Minister to legislate for safe access zones, despite its inclusion in the programme for government, is also deeply concerning.
“It is extremely disappointing that, given the hugely important work this review will have to undertake – and its significant implications for the lives of women in this country – that the Minister seems determined to wait until the very last minute to appoint an expert to lead it.”
15 November, 2021