Legal abortions begin in Ireland alongside protests

Abortion services are now genuinely accessible for the first time, however four counties have no doctors providing the procedure at all.

Lydia Morrish
Lydia Morrish NewsMavens, United Kingdom
Legal abortions begin in Ireland alongside protests - NewsMavens
Pro-choice protests in Dublin

Why this story matters:

After voters said "yes" to abortion in a historic referendum in the Republic of Ireland last year, services finally became genuinely available on January 7. Abortion up to 12 weeks became officially legal there on New Year's Day (January 1).

But services will only be active in a number of clinics, with around 200 GPs currently signed up to the service. Four counties have no abortion services at all.

Flaws in the roll-out of services have been highlighted, particularly among abortion rights charities who have said services will not be accessible for all, with a postcode lottery determining who can access reproductive healthcare.

Campaigners say issues like taking time off work to travel, seeking childcare and being in abusive relationships will restrict the country's most vulnerable women from accessing terminations.

Meanwhile, anti-abortion campaigners have led a small protest outside a GP surgery and set up websites posing as support services to counteract the roll-out.

Details from the story:

  • On May 25, 2018, 66.4% of voters in the Republic of Ireland voted to repeal the country's Eighth Amendment that made abortion illegal in nearly all cases. Services were officially made legal on January 1.
  • But abortion services won't be available all over Ireland, with four counties having no providers at all.
  • This is because no GPs in Sligo, Leitrim, Carlow and Offaly signed up to provide the service. 
  • Out of approximately 3,500 active GPs in the Republic, 200 have agreed to provide the service.
  • Some say protests are putting some doctors off providing the service, particularly if they are the only one to do so in the area.
  • A small group protested outside a doctor's clinic in Galway on Thursday, holding placards reading "Say no to abortion in Galway" and "Real doctors don’t terminate their patients".
  • Abortion rights campaigners have called for Harris to act on his pledge to introduce legislation for exclusion zones around medical practices offering abortion services.
  • Health practitioners are free to decide whether to provide the service, with doctors permitted to conscientiously object.
  • Under the new system, doctor surgeries will provide medical abortions using the abortion pill to women up to nine weeks' pregnancy, while terminations between nine and 12 weeks will be performed in one of the state's 16 maternity clinics. However, only nine of the country's hospitals were currently in a position to provide the service, according to a spokeswoman for Health Minister Simon Harris.
  • GPs continue to opt-in and out of the service. And while it's unclear how many clinics will be providing abortions and for how many women, it will become clearer over the next few weeks, as more doctors, hospitals and clinics that are preparing to provide the service become ready.

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