The Irish Refugee Council has called on Health Minister Simon Harris to put in place special measures for women in direct provision who wish to seek abortion services.
The lobbying register has shown that the council’s CEO Nick Henderson wrote to Mr Harris earlier this month seeking “clarification regarding the implementation of the Health (Regulation of the Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018 for people in the asylum process”.
Mr Henderson told the Irish Examiner there are “unique difficulties for women accessing GP services for the termination of a pregnancy” due to “the remote locations of many direct provision centres, and the fact that people seeking asylum are very reliant on public transport which they must pay for out of their direct provision allowance”.
“This is particularly so where not all GPs have opted in to providing services, and there may not be available services near a direct provision centre. To reduce the likelihood of these difficulties, we recommend a plan is in place to avoid any delays in accessing services,” he said. “This is particularly important because, after the 12-week point, women in the asylum process would have to apply for travel documents to travel to another jurisdiction and this can be a time-consuming, costly and very stressful process.”
Mr Henderson said the letter to Mr Harris has sought further information on measures in place to ensure women in direct provision can access abortion services, and confirmation that relevant information will be available in a variety of languages.
It has also asked that “suitable, dignified accommodation is provided for women who have undergone a procedure”. “This is particularly important given that women have to share a room,” Mr Henderson said.
“Minister Harris’ office has acknowledged the letter, which we sent on 6 February, and we are awaiting a substantive response,” he said.
The Department of Justice’s Reception and Integration Agency website advises that asylum seekers in direct provision “will generally qualify for a medical card which entitles them to receive a wide range of health services free of charge, including GP services”.
A spokesperson for Mr Harris said: “The minister has received the correspondence and has asked his department to consider the matter contained within. The correspondence is under review by the Department of Health and the department will continue to work with the HSE to address issues that arise.”