The Minister for Health has said that the arrangement allowing abortions to be carried out at home with pills during the Covid-19 lockdown will be reviewed – but he has not confimed that the changes will be reversed. 

Independent TD Carol Nolan asked Minister Stephen Donnelly if the change would be permitted beyond the Covid-19 period. Minister Donnelly said that “new arrangements” had been put in place “to temporarily allow termination of pregnancy” to be allowed remotely.

The changes – introduced by Simon Harris – meant that women could be given the abortion pill without a physical examination, for what has been described as an “unsafe” home abortion. During the debate on the 2018 abortion legislation, then Minister Harris told the Seanad that under the legislation a woman “would need to see and be examined by a doctor”.

Mary Fitzgibbon, of Nurses and Midwives for Life, said at the time that prescribing the abortion pill by video conference would be an unsafe and retrograde move, and warned that failing to provide an ultrasound meant that ectopic pregnancy could be missed with life-threatening consequences.

Responding to Deputy Nolan this week, Minister Donnelly said “the arrangement enabling remote consultation will be reviewed once the public health emergency is declared over .” No guarantee was given that the review would reverse the significant change in the model of abortion provision.

The Life Institute said that the changes to the law were a “sneak attack on abortion laws at a time of a national crisis brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic”, and that a failure to provide an examination and a full consultation could only be viewed as a desire of the part of the government to increase the number of abortions.