Independent TD Carol Nolan has described coerced abortions as a form of violence against women and their unborn babies – criticising the provision of abortion pills by telemedicine as playing a role in subjecting women to such coercion.
Speaking in relation to a CSO survey on sexual violence, she said that “the findings of the CSO survey are, in many respects, deeply depressing, particularly for women and girls”.
“They reveal a culture and society plagued by sexual violence, even at the upper end of the scale in terms of rape and non-consensual sexual contact,” the Laois Offaly TD said.
She said: “I want to place this firmly in the context of domestic violence and the appalling lack of services in my own constituency. If we are going to categorise domestic violence as physical and emotional harm against women, then the failure of this Government and previous Governments to provide women’s refuge places means that a significant proportion of the blame lies at the Government’s door. The lack of a women’s domestic violence in Offaly and Laois for the past number of years is totally unacceptable. Women have nowhere to go and endure terrible violence.”
“I also want to state that if we are going to talk about violence against women, then we cannot exclude the role that something like telemedicine can play in subjecting women to forced or coerced abortions,” she added.
“The HSE itself implicitly acknowledged this in a reply to a parliamentary question, when it conceded that meeting the woman in person increases the likelihood of the provider identifying any coercion or domestic abuse.
“Such coercion is a form of violence against women and their unborn children,” she told the Dáil, Friday May 17th.
In response to Deputy Nolan’s question in April 2022, the HSE claimed that telemedicine abortion (‘DIY home abortion through abortion pills taken without face-to-face consultation) had been a ‘success’, yet conceded that the system was open to being abused.
As abortion pills by post remain legal in Ireland despite being initially introduced as a temporary measure, Deputy Nolan was asking what measures were currently in place to “verify the gestational age of a woman seeking an abortion under current temporary telemedicine provisions to ensure she is within the gestational limit set out” in the law.
“‘DIY’ abortion removes abortion from the clinical setting and allows women to have an abortion without seeing a medical professional face-to-face. Opponents of the controversial scheme have repeatedly pointed out that the system removes safeguards against the possibility of coercion and abuse,” the TD said.
The HSE, in its answer, said: “Meeting the woman in person increases the likelihood of the provider identifying any coercion or domestic abuse,” the heath service said in its correspondence with the pro-life TD.
The HSE also said that “in-person consultations allow provision of personalised care and allow potential problems to be identified and mitigated”.
An undercover investigation carried out by Christian Concern in Britain in 2021 found that abortion centres were not carrying out basic checks before sending women abortion pills for use at home.
Growing concern around the system led 600 medics in Britain to sign a letter demanding that the controversial pills by post scheme be scrapped – citing fears that abortion pills mailed after phone or online consultations were being used when the baby was beyond the legal ten-week limit – and possibly when the baby was beyond the 24-week limit for surgical abortions, with such cases reported in the UK.
They also said that the system made it easier for men to coerce women into abortions against their will – and failed to protect women who were being trafficked or abused.
At the time, Life Institute said that the admission from the HSE was ‘deeply concerning’.
“Whilst the HSE have admitted that Ireland’s telemedicine abortion system helps enable coerced abortion and domestic abusers, it is astonishing that they are willing to justify the continuation of at-home abortions.
“In the statement released to Carol Nolan TD, the HSE claims that remote consultation is ‘safe, effective and acceptable’ to both ‘service users and providers’. But the truth is that this system acts only in the interest of profit-driven abortion providers, making their own jobs easier and less time-consuming while they profit off of the panic and despair of women in unplanned pregnancies.
“It enables abortion providers to give vulnerable women the means to end the lives of their own children, while not even taking the time to meet the woman to learn about her situation; to discuss alternatives; to ensure she is not trapped in a domestically abusive relationship or being coerced; or providing a scan for the woman to ensure she is at the gestation she says she is.
“The dangers of ‘DIY’ abortions are well known. In addition to these serious safety concerns, there is no guarantee about who the abortion drugs are being given to; there are no in-person checks on the gestation of the baby, and it is almost impossible to accurately assess whether or not the woman is being coerced,” the organisation added.
It was previously reported that thousands of 18-24-year old women reported being given abortion pills or substances to cause abortion without their knowledge or consent.