The Minister for Health says 56 women from Waterford travelled to access an abortion in 2016.
The Dáil and Seanad are discussing the recommendations of the committee report on the 8th amendment.
Simon Harris gave the opening speech – listing the amount of women in each county who travelled for an abortion last year.
He told the Dail that “each crisis pregnancy is different and each involves a real woman facing a very difficult and very personal decision.
Real women like the 36 from County Carlow who travelled to the UK for an abortion in 2016, or the 38 from Mayo, the 69 women from Tipperary, the 85 from Wicklow, the 241 from Cork or the 1,175 women from Dublin.
Women from every county in the Republic of Ireland travelled to the UK in 2016. I think we need to acknowledge them all.
49 from Kerry and 130 from Kildare. 21 from Leitrim and 20 from Roscommon. 69 from Wexford.
33 from Cavan and 15 from Monaghan. 99 from Limerick. 53 from Clare. 38 from Westmeath. 63 from Donegal. 113 from Galway. 44 from Kilkenny. 42 from Laois. 83 from Louth and 100 from Meath. 28 from Offaly and 29 from Sligo. 16 from Longford. 56 from Waterford.
In 2016, 3,265 Irish women travelled to the UK alone and we know that Irish women travel to other countries like the Netherlands too. Over 1,200 of the women who went to the UK were aged between 30 and 39 and over 1,500 were aged between 20 and 29. 255 were aged 40 or over. 10 were girls under the age of 16. 230 were teenagers. Over half of the women who travelled were married, in a civil partnership, or in a relationship. 85% of the women were between 3 and 12 weeks pregnant. It is estimated that at least 170,000 Irish women have travelled to other countries for abortions since 1980.
These are not faceless women. They are our friends and neighbours, sisters, cousins, mothers, aunts, wives. Each woman is dealing with her own personal situation and making what is a deeply difficult decision.
Because this time around, let’s be honest about this – this is not a decision or a procedure that anyone undertakes lightly. Women agonise about it. Women consider every possibility for dealing with the particular crisis facing them.
And sometimes they arrive at the conclusion that there is no other option for them but to terminate their pregnancy.
When they arrive at that difficult decision, the country we live in, the country we hope has come a long way from the dark events that continue to haunt this Chamber, tells them to get their care elsewhere.
In 1992, we formalised the right of Irish women to travel for an abortion and to obtain information about it, but we’ve been temporarily exporting women in crisis for a lot longer than that. I can’t help but wonder what we would have done if we didn’t have a neighbouring island to help us turn a blind eye. And sometimes turning a blind eye is the same as turning your back.
We need now to seek to build a society which accepts our own challenges and addresses them honestly, maturely and openly. One which does not seek to deny reality or to outsource it to another country. One which does not reject women at the most vulnerable moments in their lives.
As I stand before this House today at the commencement of what will in time be seen as an historic debate, I am fully aware of the sensitivies and complexities of this issue. I want to acknowledge the deeply held, genuine views on all sides of the House and throughout the country.
No matter what may divide us, I accept that all of us are trying to do what is right. All of us are guided by our own conscience; our own humanity.
Some of us have changed our views over the years. My own views have changed and been formed by listening – listening to women and to doctors, and coming to recognise some hard realities. Some of us bear the scars of past debates and fear what’s to come.
This time, I firmly believe that it is possible for us to have a respectful debate on the issue. Don’t call that naïve. Don’t dismiss the idea that we can maturely recognise that each of us has deeply personal and genuinely held views, all of which deserve to be heard, to be understood and to be respected. It is an issue that troubles most of us as individuals. For some of us, it challenges us to hold what appear to be conflicting views simultaneously. Which of us doesn’t value and love human life, and wish to see it protected? Name-calling, pigeon-holing, stereotyping – these tactics need to be consigned to history. They have only led to paralysis, fear and division.
It will require effort and attention from all of us but it is so important that everyone has the chance to hear clearly so that when, as a nation, we come to make the next decision on this issue we make an informed one.”