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Irish Health Minister Inadvertently Highlights Lack of Genuine Care for Women Seeking Abortion

18 January 2018


Simon Harris TD (Fine Gael) supports the repeal of the pro-life Eighth Amendment

Irish Health Minister Simon Harris opened a two-day Dáil debate on repealing the Eighth Amendment.

The Irish Independent reports on the number of people from each county who travelled to the UK for an abortion in 2016, which the Minister read into the debate’s record.

Mr Harris noted that out of a total of 2745 women, the majority (1175) came from Dublin. More than 1,200 of the women who went to the UK were aged between 30 and 39 and 1,500 were aged between 20 and 29. Another 255 were aged 40 or over.

Ten were girls under the age of 16, while 230 were teenagers.

Over half of the women who travelled were married, in a civil partnership, or in a relationship.

Turning your back on women

Commenting on the statistics, Mr Harris said, “I can’t help but wonder what we would have done if we didn’t have a neighbouring island to help us turn a blind eye. And sometimes turning a blind eye is the same as turning your back.”

Mr Harris has previously claimed that “[his] own views [on abortion] have changed and been formed by listening to women and to doctors.”

Perhaps unintentionally, Mr Harris has identified something real here: “turning a blind eye [to women seeking abortion] is indeed the same as “turning your back”. SPUC’s review of medical literature Abortion and Women’s Health identifies social and emotional support as being of “vital importance” in the context of unexpected pregnancy, and lists numerous motives underlying an abortion decision which arise as a result of this support being absent.

Motives underlying an abortion decision

In a section on “Motives underlying an abortion decision”, Dr Pike notes that “in most cases, no single factor motivates women to seek abortion. Rather, a variety of factors are involved. These include relationship problems, pressure from partners and family members, study and career aspirations, financial difficulties, lack of confidence as a mother, and lack of community support.”

“Women report multiple disruptive events in their lives at the time of the abortion, including unemployment, separation from a partner, falling behind on rent or mortgage payments, and moving house.”

A woman may wish to proceed with the pregnancy, but may not have material support (or may be unaware of support that is available).

“There is more often than not a story of a boyfriend who was not supportive, or a pregnancy with a person they did not know well involving a ‘poor decision’, and alcohol seemed to be involved quite often. Parents are often not involved.”

“Intimate partner violence is strongly correlated with abortion,” observes Dr Pike. In such cases, the violence cannot be expected to end after the abortion, and Dr Pike advises that practitioners should ascertain whether a woman is at risk of physical, emotional or psychological harm as this would necessitate a referral to social services.  

Abortion and Women’s Health

Abortion and Women’s Health by Dr Greg Pike gathers information from a large body of research on the physical and psychological impact of abortion on women’s health. The very disturbing spread of legal abortion to multiple countries has provided a wealth of data, which is referred to in this review.

Don’t turn a blind eye to their struggles

During the same debate, Mr Harris commented on the use of the abortion pill in Ireland, observing that “research shows a 62pc increase in the number of women from Ireland contacting one online provider over a five-year period, from 548 in 2010 to 1438 in 2015.”

Once again Mr Harris draws attention to something real here: the indifference towards women’s struggles underlying their use of the abortion pill at home, although his own solution is far from humane to either the woman or her baby. “Is it acceptable to any of us that women are once again left in a lonely and scary place sending off for a pill to be sent through the post instead of being able to access the medical advice and support they need?”

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