The Life Institute has said that TDs have no mandate to scrap the 3-day waiting period before a woman undergoes an abortion, and that to do so could lead to an additional 1,000 abortions every year.
Reacting to news that the Abortion Review looked likely to called for the period of reflection to be scrapped, spokeswoman for the pro-life group, Megan Ní Scealláin, said that the projected rise in abortions would be a "travesty", adding that the move would deny women crucially important "time to think" before an abortion.
The pro-life group also slammed the review of the abortion legislation which it said had "descended into a charade" when it had been shown that the researchers who had been appointed to the process by the Minister had campaigned for the Repeal of the 8th amendment. The Chairwoman of the Abortion Review, Marie O'Shea, was also shown to have tweeted in favour of repeal messages.
"It's been fairly obvious that the Abortion Review was going to be a charade from the start - the initial research ignored the appalling case of abortion after a misdiagnosis in the National Maternity Maternity Hospital, for example, and the data showing that the 3 day wait seems to reduce abortion numbers." Ms Ní Scealláin said.
"To be honest, what is important here is not the report written by Marie O'Shea, but whether TDs are going to allow the promise they made in 2018 to be broken by demands from groups who have a very extreme view on abortion, one which is seriously out of kilter with the public," she added.
"This is going back to the TDs now, and they have no mandate, none whatsoever, to scrap the 3-day wait and break the promise they made to voters in 2018."
"Data released to Carol Nolan TD indicates that the 3-day wait before abortion gives women time to think, and that on average a thousand women a year changed their mind in that time for reflection," she said.
"Our feedback from our campaign around the country on this issue shows that voters - including Yes voters - would view the scrapping of the 3-day wait period as a betrayal of the explicit promise made by senior government figures such as Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney during the 2018 referendum."
"Any attempt to break that guarantee given to voters would be strongly resisted - and voters would be informed of the betrayal not just of a promise but of women who need that time to think before making a life-ending decision," she said.
“In 2018, leading figures like Simon Coveney and Leo Varadkar made promises that a 3-day period of reflection would be part of abortion provision in Ireland. They made those promises to reassure voters and to persuade middle-ground voters in particular to support the abortion proposal,” said Ms Ní Scealláin said.
The Life Institute said that data released to Carol Nolan TD has showed that more than a thousand women changed their mind during the 3-day period of reflection after a first abortion appointment.
The data offered “incontrovertible evidence for the third year running that the 3-day wait gives women time to think”, Ms Ní Scealláin said.
Figures released to Deputy Nolan by the HSE for 2021 showed that there were 8,284 initial consultations charged by GPs and other clinics for termination of pregnancy services. In contrast, the Department of Health has estimated that almost 6,700 abortions took place.
“That suggests that more than 1,500 women changed their mind during the 3-day period,” Ms Ní Scealláin said. “It also shows that the 3-day waiting period may help women by giving valuable time to them to access support and help before making an irreversible decision.”
Data for previous years from the HSE released to Deputy Nolan showed there were 8,057 initial consultations for Termination of Pregnancy services in 2020, against 6,577 abortions recorded that year.
"In that year, the Department also confirmed that 6,577 abortions were carried out. We concur with Deputy Nolan’s conclusion that more than 1,400 women appear to have changed their mind and did not go ahead with an abortion during the 3-day period," the pro-life group said.
"In 2019, some 7,536 initial consultations were provided while 6,666 abortions took place," Ms Ní Scealláin pointed out.
"This means that a growing number of women are changing their mind about undergoing an abortion in the 3-day period,” said Ms Ní Scealláin. “Some 870 women did not return for an abortion in 2019, while that number climbed to 1,400 in 2020 and now more than 1,500 in 2021. That means almost 1 in 5 women are choosing to have their baby instead. Surely that’s a good thing? Why would anyone want more abortions to take place?”
“It would be reprehensible for the government to scrap the 3-day waiting period and take that time to think away from women,” she said. “They would be dramatically increasing the abortion rate, and breaking the promise they made in 2018 to voters on abortion.”
“In 2018, Tánaiste Simon Coveney promised voters that abortion would only be legal under “strict guidelines” including a 3 day period of reflection for a woman seeking abortion. The waiting period was “very important”, he said, as a reassurance to voters, because the “magnitude of terminating a pregnancy was part of the decision making” when it came to abortion.
In fact, he and other Yes leaders, like Leo Varadkar, used the promise of the 3-day wait to convince people to support repeal.
“They must not be allowed to break that promise – taking away from women that time to think and hugely increasing the number of abortions that take place when the rate is already shockingly high,” said Ms Ní Scealláin.
“We are urging voters to call their TDs and tell them they must ensure the 3-day wait is retained,” she said. “Breaking that promise would not just be a betrayal of voters – it would also abandon women and unborn babies who are deserving of protection.”
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