Campaign urges voters to ‘Call Your TD’ to ensure government promise on 3-day wait before abortion is retained 

Leading pro-life group, Life Institute, says it is boosting a nationwide campaign to ensure that the 3-day period of reflection before a woman undergoes an abortion is retained – with an emphasis that the waiting period gives women time to think and reduces the number of abortions. 

The ‘Time to Think’ campaign underlines that women deserve – and are entitled to – support so that they can keep their baby and make other choices rather than abortion, Life Institute said.  

The pro-life group says that demands from abortion campaigners to scrap the 3-day wait must be rejected by government, and that the promises made in the 2018 referendum to have a period of reflection must not be broken. 

“In 2018, leading figures like Simon Coveney and Leo Varadkar made promises that a 3-day period of reflection would be part of abortion provision in Ireland. They made those promises to reassure voters and to persuade middle-ground voters in particular to support the abortion proposal,” said spokeswoman Megan Ní Scealláin. 

“Now just 4 years later, even as the rise in the number of abortions continues to shock people, TDs must be told that this promise cannot be broken – because it would deprive women of this important time to think, and lead to another rise in the abortion rate,” she said. 

The Life Institute said that new data released to Carol Nolan TD last week has showed, yet again, that more than a thousand women changed their mind during the 3-day period of reflection after a first abortion appointment. 

The data offered “incontrovertible evidence for the third year running that the 3-day wait gave women time to think”, Ms Ní Scealláin said.

Figures released to Deputy Nolan by the HSE for 2021 showed that there were 8,284 initial consultations charged by GPs and other clinics for termination of pregnancy services. In contrast, the Department of Health has estimated that almost 6,700 abortions took place.

“That suggests that more than 1,500 women changed their mind during the 3-day period,” Ms Ní Scealláin said. “It also shows that the 3-day waiting period may help women by giving valuable time to them to access support and help before making an irreversible decision.”

Data for previous years from the HSE released to Deputy Nolan showed there were 8,057 initial consultations for Termination of Pregnancy services in 2020, against 6,577 abortions recorded that year.

In that year, the Department also confirmed that 6,577 abortions were carried out. We concur wth Deputy Nolan’s conclusion that more than 1,400 women appear to have changed their mind and did not go ahead with an abortion during the 3-day period.

In 2019, some 7,536 initial consultations were provided while 6,666 abortions took place.

This means that a growing number of women are changing their mind about undergoing an abortion in the 3-day period,” said Ms Ní Scealláin. “Some 870 women did not return for an abortion in 2019, while that number climbed to 1,400 in 2020 and now more than 1,500 in 2021. That means almost 1 in 5 women are choosing to have their baby instead. Surely that’s a good thing? Why would anyone want more abortions to take place?”

“It would be reprehensible for the government to scrap the 3-day waiting period and take that time to think away from women,” she said. “They would be dramatically increasing the abortion rate, and breaking the promise they made in 2018 to voters on abortion.” 

“In 2018, Tánaiste Simon Coveney promised voters that abortion would only be legal under “strict guidelines” including a 3 day period of reflection for a woman seeking abortion. The waiting period was “very important”, he said, as a reassurance to voters, because the “magnitude of terminating a pregnancy was part of the decision making” when it came to abortion.

In fact, he and other Yes leaders, like Leo Varadkar, used the promise of the 3-day wait to convince people to support repeal. 

“They must not be allowed to break that promise  – taking away from women that time to think and hugely increasing the number of abortions that take place when the rate is already shockingly high,” said Ms Ní Scealláin. 

“We are urging voters to call their TDs and tell them they must ensure the 3-day wait is retained,” she said. “Breaking that promise would not just be a betrayal of voters – it would also abandon women and unborn babies who are deserving of protection.” 

Life Institute has produced a billboard and social media campaign urging that the 3-day waiting period be retained – and say they are “stepping up the campaign this week with local newspaper advertisements and door-to door- leaflets”.

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