Accessing abortion may become easier than accessing contraception

By David Mullins

If proposals contained in a submission to the Department of Health by the Irish Pharmacy Union are accepted; then access to an abortion will soon become more readily available than access to contraception.

As things currently stand, any person aged 16 or over may access an abortion without parental consent. Those below the age of 16 may also access an abortion without parental consent in certain ‘exceptional circumstances.’

The Irish Pharmacy Union however have suggested to Minister Simon Harris that the future supply of contraceptives by pharmacists would be restricted to women aged 17 years and older.

This is just one of several proposals contained in the recent IPU Submission called A Proposal for Improving Access to Contraception for Women. It can be read here.

The IPU made its Submission following the announcement by Minister Harris in the Dáil on 9 March 2018, that he intended to introduce a free contraceptive service.

At the time, the Minister said that he would “seek approval for a series of measures to further support women and improve access to counselling, contraception and perinatal care”.

Minister Harris also stated that “if our underlying principle is that abortion should be safe, legal and rare, then we must do all that we can to reduce the number of crisis pregnancies and to support women in every way”.

The Irish Pharmacy Union in its Submission states that it shares this view.

“By making birth control easier and more convenient to obtain, more women will use it, which should result in reduced rates of unintended pregnancy and also abortion.”

The reality is however that this is simply not the case. The facts around this have been clearly laid out by Dr Angelo Bottone.  See his blog Making contraception cheaper does not reduce a country’s abortion rate which can be accessed here.

This is certainly a striking turn of events and one that certainly highlights the lack of rigour and meaningful debate around the whole question of age limits when it comes to abortion.

Are we to now simply accept the fact that accessing a procedure to end human life for any reason whatsoever or no reason at all is to become less onerous than accessing the pill?

Another proposal put forward by the IPU in the same Submission states that in its view: “A woman will need to have a formal consultation and BP/BMI check with the pharmacist every 6 months.”

Again, this kind of proposed statutory requirement for ongoing care and observation is notably lacking when it comes to women or young girls who access an abortion.