Work to provide safe and legal abortion access in Ireland must continue
The 10th anniversary of Savita Halappanavar’s death should allow us to reflect on the progress we have made in the reform of our abortion laws, but also on the shortcomings of the legislation as it stands, according to Social Democrats TD Holly Cairns.
Paying tribute to Savita, who was 17-weeks pregnant when she died at University Hospital Galway on October 28, 2012, Deputy Cairns said she would always be an enduring symbol of societal change in Ireland.
“Savita’s death exposed the cruelty and misogyny of Ireland’s barbaric abortion ban. It highlighted, once again, that abortion bans do not stop abortions – they endanger the lives of women and girls.
“The national outpouring of grief, shock and anger that followed coalesced into one of the most powerful civil society campaigns in Irish political history and the law has now changed.
“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 unequal access, with just one in ten GPs offering abortion services, while just 50 percent of hospitals offer full abortion services.
“There are other unduly restrictive aspects of the law that also need to be changed. The three-day waiting period to access an abortion disproportionately negatively impacts those who must still travel for a termination and those in lower socioeconomic groups.
“Meanwhile, many women who receive a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality, and who wish to terminate their pregnancy, are still compelled to travel abroad. These women continue to suffer immense trauma as a result.
“Recent UK Department of Health figures show that 367 people from the island of Ireland were forced to travel to Britain for abortion care in 2021 – 206 from the Republic and 161 from the North. These are just the UK figures of people giving Irish addresses. In reality, there are many more.
“The current review of the Termination of Pregnancy Act must remove these cruel restrictions.
“Today, as we remember Savita, we also remember the tens of thousands of women who suffered as a result of the 8th Amendment over more than 30 years.
“The 8th has now been excised from the Constitution, but the work to provide safe and legal abortion access does not stop there.
“We must ensure our abortion law is fit for purpose and provides access, not barriers, to care.”
October 28, 2022