Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution

Socioeconomic Context: Dr. Caitriona Henchion and Mr. Niall Behan, Irish Family Planning Association

1:30 pm

Dr. Caitriona Henchion:

To give a little background, other presenters to the committee have explained that a very small number of abortions are sought on the grounds of either foetal anomalies or rape. The vast majority of them are far more complex and involve many socio-economic factors. As to what those factors are, there are as many different sets of circumstances as there are women. Various combinations of factors occur. It might be a young woman who is still in education or very early on a career path who does not have the support of a partner and who feels she will damage her future by continuing with the pregnancy. It might be an older woman who has children and has just got back into the workplace. As in the first vignette I gave, there might be financial difficulties for that family that they are trying to get through and they feel another pregnancy would stop them being able to get their lives back on track.

We have some women with very severe forms of disadvantage. For example, some women are battling addiction and might have children in care. They are on a pathway out of addiction and have accessed services. They have succeeded in keeping sober. They just feel that the mental health toll of a pregnancy and the fact of having another baby might put their goal of getting their plans back on track out of their reach. There are a vast number of different situations that occur. Trying to set out a list of conditions that would fulfil a socio-economic criteria is unrealistic. The only way to deal with that is to have some sort of open access so that these conditions can be met. Whether the committee decides to put gestational limits in place for that is a matter for the Government. To ask women to meet certain criteria does not recognise the complexity of the issue in the first place.


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