24.07.2020 Minister for Health side-steps question on whether practice of telemedicine abortions will end

24.07.2020 Minister for Health side-steps question on whether practice of telemedicine abortions will end

Earlier this week in a written response to Deputy Carol Nolan, the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly refused to confirm categorically that the system of allowing home abortions (via telemedicine) will cease after the Covid-19 crisis passes.

In his reply, Minister Donnelly was only prepared to say that the matter “will be reviewed” once the public health emergency is declared over.

Commenting on behalf of the Pro Life Campaign on this latest development, Dr Kirsten Fuller said: “Minister Donnelly’s assurances about bringing the practice of telemedicine abortions to an end falls short of the commitment given by his predecessor as Health Minister, Simon Harris, who clearly stated that telemedicine abortions would only continue until the end of the Covid-19 crisis.”

Back in May in an earlier written reply on the matter to Deputy Nolan, the then Minister for Health, Simon Harris, made it clear that the arrangement enabling home abortions “will lapse once the public health emergency is declared over.”

In this week’s public statement from the Pro Life Campaign on the matter, Dr Fuller called on Minister Donnelly to issue a more explicit statement clarifying that he intends to cease the practice of telemedicine abortions, a practice that she said as well as ending the lives of unborn babies “also potentially puts the lives of pregnant women at risk as it does not involve a face-to-face consultation between the woman and her doctor before the abortion.”

Dr Fuller continued that in the interests of public health and safety, Minister Donnelly “also needs to clarify whether he received advice from the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) before agreeing to sanction telemedicine abortions on his watch.”

In reply to a parliamentary question in April from Galway West TD Éamon Ó Cuív, then Minister for Health, Simon Harris, refused to confirm whether he had sought the advice of the CMO before signing off on allowing home abortions to take place.

Prior to the abortion referendum in 2018, Simon Harris, Stephen Donnelly, Micheál and Leo Varadkar were constantly on the public record talking about the serious risks posed to women’s health by self-administering abortion pills without medical consultation. What has changed in two years that the Government could use to justify their latest reckless decision? That answer is nothing has changed.
In reply to a separate parliamentary question (to the Minister for Health from Deputy Ó Cuív) regarding the steps taken to facilitate face-to-face check-ups for pregnant women in general during the Covid-19 crisis, the reply makes clear that in this case proper provision for face-to-face antenatal appointments was planned for from the outset and delivered upon.

The Pro Life Campaign first started raising concerns as far back as 27th March about the Government’s approval of telemedicine home abortions, which was sanctioned without any prior public debate.

We will continue to vigorously pursue the matter until the Minister for Health answers pertinent questions and the practice itself ceases.