Extraordinary that no reference to abortion services in National Women’s Strategy

It is shocking that there is no reference to the widening of abortion services in the National Women’s Strategy published today (03.05.2017) given the current visibility and urgency of this key healthcare and equality issue, according to the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment.

The National Women’s Strategy 2017 – 2020 was published today by the Department of Justice and Equality. Commenting in reaction to the Strategy, Ailbhe Smyth, Convenor of the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment, said: “The publication of a new National Women’s Strategy is a significant development, and it is of course hugely important that the Strategy deals with key issues such as the gender pay gap, pension gap, violence against women, and women in leadership. The aim of the Strategy is to enable women in Ireland achieve equality with men. However, there can be no equality when women in Ireland do not have full control over all aspects of their healthcare.

“It is bizarre that the Strategy makes no reference to the widening of abortion services, beyond a bland mention of the forthcoming report by the Citizen’s Assembly.  We are at a loss to understand why there are no recommendations made in the Strategy that the Government set a date for a referendum on the Eighth Amendment and enacts the Citizens’ Assembly’s recent recommendations in legislation.

“The Strategy aims to be a key policy document to create ‘an Ireland where all women enjoy equality with men and can achieve their full potential while enjoying a safe and fulfilling life’. As the Strategy was launched, at least ten women are being forced to travel outside of Ireland to access abortion, with more buying abortion pills online. These women are criminalised, face unnecessary trauma and stigma and put their physical and mental health at risk because they cannot access abortions in Ireland amongst their friends and family. This fact alone goes against the very aim of the National Women’s Strategy to allow women in Ireland to live safe lives.

“The Citizens’ Assembly showed that when Irish people are given the information, research-based evidence and the time and space to discuss women’s reproductive needs, including abortion, they overwhelmingly choose to do what is best for women’s safety, health and wellbeing. The Joint Oireachtas Committee will shortly begin its meetings to consider the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly and to report in turn to the Dáil. They have a wealth of fact-based evidence and testimonies from the Citizens’ Assembly proceedings and submissions to support them in their work.

“We urge them now to get on with the job, to recommend that a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment be held in early 2018, and that legislation should ensure that women have access to abortion in Ireland.”

Response to Minister Richard Bruton’s comments

Commenting in reaction to Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton’s comments that the Government is not bound to the Citizens’ Assembly’s recommendations, Ailbhe Smyth said: “We are surprised to hear Minister Bruton back-peddling on the recommendations made by the Government’s own Citizens’ Assembly, and we are very concerned that this will pre-empt the work of the Joint Oireachtas Committee”.