Stats show Irish women benefit from waiting period before abortion, observers say

Kevin J. Jones   By Kevin J. Jones for CNA



Dublin, Ireland, Nov 12, 2021 / 16:27 pm (CNA).

About 1,500 Irish women in 2020 decided not to go through with an abortion after seeking an initial consultation. Critics of abortion say it’s a sign that these women need support and that the existing three-day waiting period should be preserved.

“My primary concern here is to ensure that women and babies are protected and supported,” said Carol Nolan, an independent Deputy to the Dáil from Laois-Offaly, who had sought the information in a parliamentary question.

Nolan accused both the current Minister for Health, Fianna Fáil member Stephen Donnelly, and his predecessor, of having “a kind of cold-shoulder attitude toward those who seek to place the emphasis on the need to reduce abortions rather than promote them.”

“That is not acceptable, and I will continue to fight against it. We can and must do better for women and their babies,” she said.

Nolan had been a member of the party Sinn Féin, but was suspended from the party and eventually resigned because of the party’s new stance in favor of legal abortion.

In a Nov. 5 response to a parliamentary question from Nolan, state officials reported that 8,057 women in the Republic of Ireland made an initial consultation for an abortion. However, only 6,577 women went through to procure an abortion, meaning almost 1,500 did not.

“This information indicates that there are a sizeable proportion of women who change their mind between the first consultation when discussing abortion with their GP and actually going through with the abortion,” Eilis Mulroy of the Ireland-based group the Pro-Life Campaign, said Nov. 5.

The Republic of Ireland has legal abortion for any reason up to 12 weeks into pregnancy. It also allows abortion if there is a risk to the life or health of a mother, or if there is any condition likely to lead to the death of the unborn child.

Irish law has a required three-day waiting period before an initial abortion consultation and the abortion procedure.

For pro-life advocates, this provision is significant.

“The 2020 figures show that 1,480 women decided against having an abortion during this crucial window,” Mulroy said. “Whilst the three-day waiting period may not have been the only or most important factor in all these cases, it was undoubtedly a significant and life-saving measure in many cases.”

“Many lives have been saved by the three-day waiting period, which demonstrates its inherent value,” Mulroy added. She encouraged the public and lawmakers to reflect on these numbers ahead of the Minister for Health’s three-year review of abortion legislation.

Niamh Uí Bhriain of the Life Institute told Gript News that the waiting period is an important safeguard.

“Clearly, without the reflection period the already shockingly high abortion rate would be even higher,” she said. “No reasonable person wants that – or wants more abortions to take place. Attempts by abortion advocates to scrap the three-day waiting period should be strongly resisted.”

Right to Life UK said the findings should encourage efforts to secure a three-day waiting period in Britain. Some 79% of the British public support a waiting period, according to a May 2017 ComRes survey of 2,008 representative adults living in Great Britain.

“It is hardly surprising that there could be a link between having a waiting period in law and a reduction in the number of women that go on to have an abortion,” said Right to Life UK spokesperson Catherine Robinson. “Even supporters of abortion who typically frame the debate around ‘choice’, should favor the introduction of waiting periods. They clearly give women a chance to consider their options, and perhaps find the help they need to go through with their pregnancy.”

Besides Ireland, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain all require a waiting period of at least three days between an initial consultation for an abortion procedure and an abortion itself.

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