Sinn Féin Senator Paul Gavan has today called on the government to appoint an independent chairperson to lead the promised review of the Termination of Pregnancy Act.
Speaking under Order of Business Senator Gavan also called on the Minister for Health to address key outstanding matters such as the need for Safe Access Zone legislation, and the roll out of free reproductive healthcare in line with previous commitments to ensure equal access for women regardless of geographic location or socio-economic status.
Senator Gavan explained that despite there being protests outside many maternity hospitals by so called pro-life groups, including a protest each day during Lent outside Limerick Maternity Hospital, the government appear now not to be honouring their programme for government commitment to legislate for safe access zones.
Senator Gavan said:
“In response to a recent commencement matter the Minister for State effectively suggested that there was no need for such legislation despite a government commitment, and numerous promises by the previous Minister for Health.
“In reality this legislation is required and the government should honour their previous commitment made on this issue.”
Senator Gavan also highlighted the plight of women in Direct Provision centres who have to turn to the black market in order to obtain abortion pills.
“These women are forced to pay up to €400 for abortion pills because they have no access to services. This is in the context of just one in ten GP’s across the state offering termination services and half of the maternity hospitals in the state also failing to offer services.”
Senator Gavan concluded:
“There has been a failure to honour commitments made in respect of reproductive healthcare services for women. The ancillary recommendations made by the Oireachtas Committee on the 8th Amendment, of which I was a member, made particular reference to the need to ensure that all women have access to essential healthcare regardless of where they live, or their income.
“A meaningful review of the Act is now urgently needed. In this respect I am calling on the Minister for Health to ensure that an independent Chairperson is appointed and that this review get under way without delay.”