A Galway TD is calling for abortion to be legalised, up to 12 weeks into a pregnancy, and demanding that laws be introduced for the regulation and safe use of the abortion pill within the State.
Fine Gael Galway West TD Hildegarde Naughton, a member of the Committee on the 8th Amendment to the Constitution - which has to consider the recommendations of the Citizens Assembly on the issue of abortion - has called for termination of pregnancy to be decriminalised.
“The overwhelming evidence of the obstetricians/gynaecologists presenting to the committee was that the present criminalisation of abortion prevents them giving the fullest care to their patients,” she said. “The criminal law has no place interfering in the most sensitive decisions to be taken by women, in consultation with their doctors.”
However, she added that she does not support “abortion on demand”, and that while the medical evidence that there is “sufficient grounds for allowing a termination in cases of fatal foetal abnormality and rape/incest” is “persuasive”, she remains “unconvinced” that “sufficient cause” exists to allow “wider access to termination”.
The TD did acknowledge there are “considerable numbers of women who, for various reasons, consider they have no alternative but to terminate their pregnancy”.
Dep Naughton is also calling for use of abortion pills to be regularised, given their “widespread availability”, how easy it is to buy them over the internet, and the fact that many women are using them “without medical supervision”. Incorrect administration of the drug can lead to perforation of the uterus.
“You cannot turn off the internet nor expect the gardai to be waiting at our airports for women carrying abortion pills,” she said. “There is no practical way to stop the use of abortion pills in Ireland. That horse has bolted. We can either close our eyes to this, as usual, or actually deal with the dangers of unsupervised access to abortion pills. I choose the latter. It is a decision necessary to protect the lives of women.”
As a result, Dep Naughton is calling for the abortion pill to be regulated in accordance with best medical practice, which is presently up to 12 weeks, and that this should be provided by legislation and with the approval of the Health Products Regulatory Authority.
However Need Abortion Ireland has questioned Dep Naughton’s view on abortion pills, saying they are “very safe”, and the “pills which are available from Women Help Women are safe and listed on the World Health Organisation’s list of ‘Essential Medicines’, they are the exact same pills given in clinics in the UK under nine weeks of pregnancy.”
The Galway TD is also calling on the committee to support the “ancillary recommendations” of the Citizens Assembly, including “a thorough review of sexual health and relationship education” in schools and colleges; improved access to reproductive healthcare services be available to all women; the provision of contraceptives, free of charge, to all people within the State; all women should have access to the same standard of obstetrical care; improvements to counselling and support facilities for pregnant women both during pregnancy and, if necessary, following a termination.