This St Patrick’s Day, Irish women have something extra to celebrate. For the first time since 1861, abortion is legal in the Republic of Ireland. Few expected to see this shift in a country entrenched with Catholic dogma and known for their anti-abortion laws, but the Irish were ready for a change and they made it happen.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and abortion services in Ireland remain highly regulated and there are barriers in place that make accessing abortion in Ireland harder than it needs to be. General practitioners (family doctors) can manage abortions up to 9 weeks. From 9-12 weeks, abortions happen at the hospital. Abortions beyond that point in pregnancy are legal only in limited circumstances. In addition to these restrictions, there is a 3-day waiting period for women seeking an abortion – something we know to be medically useless.
This is a hugely important first step in a country where, as late as the 1970s, doctors were prosecuted for supplying condoms as part of a ban on contraception.
Protesters? What protesters?
The country was prepared for massive backlash following the referendum that brought about The Health Act, signed at the end of 2018. As it turns out, protests have been minimal; just a few half-hearted picketers outside a clinic and some misleading websites designed to draw people away from abortion providers.
A state-funded and legally binding medical standard of care.
The cost of an abortion is around 450 Euros (or $500), but the cost of abortion procedures is covered by the country’s comprehensive, government-funded public healthcare system. Any doctor who objects to providing abortions is legally obliged to refer the patient to another “opted-in” physician.
Ireland still has a long way to go to achieve true access and choice, but if they can come this far in such a short time, so can we.
Whole Woman’s Health Alliance is a non-profit organization that works everyday to eradicate the stigma associated with abortion. Today we wear green to salute our colleagues, friends and supporters in Ireland, with the knowledge that a woman’s right to have an abortion just took a Finn McCool-sized leap forward.