Legal avenues must be provided for abortion in all cases where fatal foetal anomalies are diagnosed, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) has said.

It made the call in its submission to the Review of the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018.

The legislation only allows for abortion in cases where two medical practitioners form a reasonable opinion the foetus will likely die before or within 28 days of birth.

“Official figures pertaining to abortion carried out raise concerns that this provision may be limiting access to termination for pregnant women who receive fatal foetal abnormality diagnoses but who are required to travel to access healthcare,” the IHREC said.

“The impact of being denied care is disproportionately felt by women who may not have the permission, clearance or means to travel such as migrant women, international protection applicants and disabled women.”

It has also recommended the mandatory three day waiting period be removed, saying time can cause delays in accessing services and affect the completion of care, especially if the initial termination of pregnancy fails and the woman is close to the 12 weeks gestation limit.

The Commission also said abortion should be decriminalised in all circumstances as a matter of urgency and that the Act be equality proofed to guarantee universal access to care, noting in particular victims of domestic violence, those living in rural areas and poverty.

An official register of conscientious objectors should also be established, it said.

“It is crucial that current gaps in abortion care are addressed, so that abortion is free to all at the point of contact, available locally across the island, and that all women who receive a devastating diagnosis of a fatal abnormality can access abortion healthcare if they so wish,” said chief commissioner Sinéad Gibney.

The Irish Times

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