• Home
  • Blog
  • We must resist calls to scrap three-day waiting period for abortion

We must resist calls to scrap three-day waiting period for abortion


In 2018, then Tánaiste Simon Coveney said that he was willing to support repeal of the 8th amendment and legalisation of abortion on demand to 12 weeks because he had been assured there would be “strict guidelines”, including a three-day waiting period for women to reflect on the decision before they underwent an abortion.

Minister Coveney said that he believed that those measures would lead “middle ground” voters – people who he said had a “traditionally pro-life” perspective – to support the referendum.

The waiting period was “very important”, he said, because the “magnitude of terminating a pregnancy was part of the decision making” when it came to abortion.

Minister Coveney’s u-turn on abortion, like that of Micheál Martin, was used by ‘Yes’ campaigners and their media allies to persuade reluctant voters, who were being told that the 8th was endangering women but who did not, polls showed, support an abortion model they believed was unrestricted.Of course, an abortion regime with very few restrictions was what voters got once the 8th was gone – with some 21,000 abortion having taken place already according to junior Minister Mary Butler.

And now abortion campaigners, including the National Women’s Council, are pushing for the three-day waiting period to be scrapped, and their demands are getting the usual lavish media coverage while pro-life perspectives are censored and ignored.

The reasons they give for ending the period of reflection are frankly ridiculous. They claim that the three-day waiting period between the first and second abortion appointment means we “don’t trust women”. They say that it amounts to a “paternalistic” system where women are not viewed as “competent decision-makers”.

And they conveniently ignore what we know to be true about the three-day wait period – that it seems to reduce the number of abortions taking place.

We know this because pro-life TDs like Carol Nolan and Peadar Tóibín have asked the pertinent questions of the Minister for Health which give us an insight into what is happening with abortion in Ireland. (The Department of Health’s annual report on abortion, in stark contrast, seems designed to keep the Irish people almost entirely in the dark on the issue).

So, figures released in response to a parliamentary question from Carol Nolan suggest that, in 2020 alone, almost 20% of women who attended GPs and clinics seeking an abortion subsequently changed their mind and did not go ahead with the procedure.

Ms Nolan asked the Minister for Health for information regarding “the number of initial consultations for the termination of pregnancy services that were provided by general practitioners, family planning clinics and women’s health clinics in 2020”.

The HSE responded that “In 2020, there were 8,057 initial consultations for Termination of Pregnancy services”. Contrasting that information with data from the Department of Health which revealed that 6,577 abortions were carried out in 2020, Deputy Nolan said that it seemed more than 1400 women had changed their mind and did not go ahead with an abortion.

That amounted to 18.4% – or almost one in 5 women – who did not proceed with an abortion after the initial consultation.

Similarly, in 2019, 7,536 initial consultations were provided while 6,666 abortions took place, suggesting that some 870 women changed their mind during the three-day waiting period.It is telling that any outcome other than ending a baby’s life seems to be considered a negative by some abortion campaigners”

So it’s very likely that we could expect a rise in the number of abortions taking place if the waiting period was scrapped. And the obvious question is why on earth any reasonable person would want that?

The truth that abortion campaigners want to ignore – or suppress – is that most people do not see abortion as a good thing. Most people, because most people have some compassion and some common decency, would prefer if less abortions, not more, took place.

It would serve women better if these taxpayer-funded bodies recognised that women need support to continue with their pregnancies, and that having time to reflect on any decision can produce a different outcome. It is telling that any outcome other than ending a baby’s life seems to be considered a negative by some abortion campaigners.

That’s why it’s so important for pro-life people – and even those many reluctant ‘Yes’ voters – to contact their TDs and to remind them of the promises they made in the referendum. It should be emphasised that any changes to the law that would actually increase the number of abortions will be strongly resisted and has no popular support.

Already, the rise in the number of abortions taking place in Ireland is profoundly shocking, despite promises from Leo Varadkar and others that it would be rare. We cannot allow a small but vocal minority to make that situation even worse.

back to blog