Harris told of fear over abortion 'barriers' in rural areas

Harris told of fear over abortion 'barriers' in rural areas

A “sparse” rural abortion service is forcing pregnant women to travel long distances for a termination, pro-choice groups claim.

They also describe the mandatory three-day waiting period for an abortion as “a significant barrier” for rural pregnant women.

The 35 pro-choice groups have written to Health Minister Simon Harris to express their “fear and disappointment” that some women are still unable to access timely abortion care.

“This is not what we marched for and it is not what we voted for. People deserve timely abortion care that reflects evidence-based clinical practice where they live,” reads the groups’ open letter.

They point out that some counties have no GPs signed up to the service and others have limited provision with GPs only providing care to current patients.

Also, those needing hospital care are being referred to larger city-based maternity units.

The mandatory three-day waiting period requires two visits to an abortion provider so some pregnant women living in rural areas have to travel long distances.

“The end goal of the campaign to repeal the Eighth Amendment was not to introduce abortion care for a select few,” reads the letter from the groups.

Mr Harris said the introduction of new legislation for safe access zones is a priority for him.

“It is my intention to have a draft law by this summer and to work with people on a cross-party basis to get it through the Oireachtas as quickly as possible.”

Mr Harris also said new figures show that 274 GPs and 10 hospitals have signed up to provide abortion services.

Meanwhile, an investigation is under way after a GP’s premises on the outskirts of Longford town was daubed with anti-abortion graffiti on Sunday night.

Local Fianna Fáil councillor Joe Flaherty said the graffiti was “anti-choice, anti-abortion” and included words such as Nazi, murder, death, and had racist undertones.

Mr Flaherty said he does not think the vandalism is a Longford issue but a national one as he has heard of car tyres being slashed in Cork.

And he does not think that a safe zone would have made a difference “to people who crept about in the dark and daubed these words across a building”.

Meanwhile,

Separately, Mr Harris has described the practices of an American anti-abortion group as “manipulative” and “deeply disrespectful” of the democratic process.

He was responding to a claim by The Times, Ireland that the US group Sidewalk Advocates is planning to train people in Ireland to confront women, who may be considering an abortion, in car parks outside GP clinics and hospitals.

The newspaper reported that the group plans to get around new laws for exclusion or safe access zones by approaching women in car parks and offering them “non-violent” solutions to their crisis situation.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said on RTÉ that the rights to freedom of expression and privacy in Ireland have to be protected. He would like to see the Church do more in coming to the aid of people who want to keep their child — but not in a car park.

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