Thursday, May 28, 2009

CORK WOMEN'S HEALTH MANIFESTO: On International Day of Action on Women's Health, 28 May 2009

All people in Ireland have the right to the highest possible standard of physical, mental, and emotional health and well-being. Equal access to affordable, quality health care is essential to promoting this right. Women are often more heavily – and negatively - impacted by lack of access to health services, facilities and care programmes, especially in this period of economic crisis. Women from a variety of organisations in Cork City recently gathered to discuss the need to highlight women's priority issues concerning their health and the health of their families and communities. In recognition of the International Day of Action on Women's Health today (28 May 2009), we have identified four main priority issues in relation to women's health in Cork:

Carers — We endorse the Family Carers Manifesto in calling for recognition of the importance of care work and that women do the majority of it with little recognition or support. Family Carers are asking local representatives and MEP’s to lobby for the publication and implementation of the Family Carers Strategy, the introduction of a needs assessment, and a free annual medical check-up for all family carers. Please contact the Carers Association ( for more information on their Manifesto.

Violence — We demand recognition of the health impacts of violence, including sexual violence, domestic violence, child abuse, female genital mutilation, trafficking/prostitution, and the provision of services and facilities that provide treatment, counselling, accommodation, and post-traumatic after-care for victims of violence. For more information on this issue, please visit the Sexual Violence Centre Cork website ( and the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre website (

Reproductive Health — We demand access to safe, affordable and legal reproductive and sexual health services in Ireland. The diversity of Irish society should be reflected in policy on reproductive rights. Many women consider that access, not only to effective contraception but also to emergency contraception (the ‘morning-after pill) and abortion are conscientious choices. Abortion is a social reality in Ireland. Over the past thirty years at least 130,000 Irish women have exercised their right to choose in Britain or, more recently, in Euro zone countries such as the Netherlands. The current situation is inequitable as it results in a two-tiered system of eligibility for health care, where abortion services are accessible only to those who are free to travel to Britain and can afford to do so. This impacts not only on women living in poverty but on migrant women and asylum seekers, within whose cultures access to full reproductive choices is considered a woman's right. For more information on this issue, contact Cork Women's Right to Choose at

Access and Information — We demand an end to the two-tier health system in order to provide equal access to health services and facilities for all. Many people, especially women, experience confusion, excessively long waits, and lack of confidence in trying to access the health system. Services and facilities are simply not available, for example a rehab centre in Cork for girls experiencing drug addition, and/or not advertised, such as cancer testing facilities. The government and the HSE must take responsibility in providing better community outreach and equal care to all. We demand better and more reliable information about services and facilities, better communication around health needs in the various communities, and better access to translation facilities.


We have written this manifesto to bring home to candidates in the upcoming European and local elections how essential these issues are to a great many women. Women's diverse perspectives and experiences MUST be taken into account in provision of health care.

We call on candidates to commit to making them a priority in their campaigns in advance of the elections on 5th June 2009 and to highlight those concerns within their parties.

We call on them to listen to their electorate, the users of the health system, and commit themselves and their political parties to promote and enable those changes that are essential to the delivery of fair and equal access to high quality health care for everyone in Ireland.

Health is a human right.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Press Release from Northern Ireland FPA

UN Committee concludes that abortion law in Northern Ireland should be amended
27 May 2009

For the third time in ten years, another United Nations human rights monitoring body has recommended that the abortion law in Northern Ireland should be amended and better protection afforded to women’s human rights. The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the monitoring body of the Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights met in Geneva on the 12 and 13 of May 2009, to examine the UK and Northern Ireland government. In its concluding observations, the Committee recommended that the abortion law in Northern Ireland should be brought into line with the rest of the UK. It stated:

“The Committee calls upon the State party to amend the abortion law of Northern Ireland to bring it in line with the 1967 Abortion Act with a view to preventing clandestine and unsafe abortions in cases of rape, incest or foetal abnormality.”

Reacting to the Committee’s recommendations, Dr Audrey Simpson, fpa Director Northern Ireland said:

“Once again the ongoing discrimination of Northern Ireland women has been acknowledged in Europe. It is totally unacceptable for the UK Government and the Northern Ireland Assembly to continue to ignore UN human rights monitoring bodies. It is a blatant disregard for women’s human rights in relation to their reproductive health.”

Monday, May 18, 2009

Check Out This YouTube Video!

Last year, Choice Ireland ( initiated a month of action against the WRC, a rogue counselling clinic at 50 Upper Dorset Street in Dublin.

If you know of or have any information about 'clinics' in Cork City providing false or misleading information to women seeking crisis pregnancy counselling, please contact us at: Women and men have the right to the truth!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The kindness of strangers who helped Irish women abandoned by the State

From The Irish Times
Thu, May 07, 2009


BOOK OF THE DAY: ANTHEA McTEIRNAN reviews Ireland’s Hidden Diaspora: the “abortion trail” and the making of a London-Irish Underground, 1980-2000 by Anne Rossiter IASC publications pp 237, €8

IT IS to this island’s shame that it continues to abandon half its population to a reliance on the kindness of strangers.

This year, almost 5,000 women from the Republic and 1,500 women from Northern Ireland will be forced to travel to England to have an abortion. They will do so in trepidation, in fear, often in debt and in secrecy.

Since abortion was legalised in Britain in 1967, it is calculated that more than 150,000 Irish women have had terminations there.

These women are our mothers, aunts, grandmothers, sisters, cousins. They are us.

They were forced to be strong and ingenious to escape two very different States with one very common purpose – to deny them the right to choose.

On their challenging journeys, if they were lucky, some of these women may have encountered the generosity, thoughtfulness and solidarity of a remarkable bunch of people.

Anne Rossiter, a long-standing campaigner on women’s issues, a native of Bruree, Co Limerick, who has lived in London for a quarter of a century, is one of them.

Her scholarly, yet accessible account of the workings of the Irish Women’s Abortion Support Group (IWASG) and the Irish Abortion Solidarity Campaign, is a valuable piece of work.

Peppered with first-person accounts, it gives voice to the women who held out a hand to those forced to leave their homeland to travel to a strange city to have an abortion.

The abortion taboo remains paralysingly strong for Irish women, but this is not a book full of anonymous stories of anonymous women who have had terminations. It is, rather, an account of the times and modus operandi of the informal support and information networks that came to the aid of those women who needed them.

In the 1980s, being Irish in London was no cakewalk. Those campaigning for reproductive rights in Ireland were caught between a rock and a hard place. With anti-Irish racism tangible, highlighting issues that could be used to have a negative impact on the Irish community in Britain was problematic. Also, the hold of the Catholic Church on many Irish community organisations in Britain silenced discussion on reproductive justice. A double whammy, so to speak.

In Ireland’s Hidden Diaspora , Rossiter has woven a tapestry of social and political history that is often marginalised, frequently disregarded, but indisputably precious.

The book is a treasure trove of information that will take many who lived through the height of the Greater London Council years in 1980s London down memory lane.

And yet this is a book mindful of the very recent past and the future too. In the North of Ireland, following the defeat in January of her private members bill seeking to extend Britains 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland, MP Diane Abbott has filed an Early Day Motion calling for the British government to “provide funding for women in Northern Ireland to access abortion services in Britain”.

In the Republic, three women are taking a case to the European Court of Human Rights, arguing that their human rights were breached because they had to travel to have an abortion. If successful, both moves will trigger radical legal change.

The trouble with history is that it is usually just that – his story. Anne Rossiter has preserved an important chapter in the history of Irish women. For that, and for meeting those scared women at the airport, for carrying their bags, for taking them home, for feeding them, listening to them, helping them to find their way in an unfamiliar city, she is owed an enormous debt of gratitude. Thank goodness for kind strangers.

Anthea McTeirnan is an Irish Times journalist and a member of the board of the Irish Family Planning Association

© 2009 The Irish Times