Minister for Health Simon Harris opened a two-day Dáil debate on repealing the Eight Amendment where he detailed the 3,625 people who travelled to the UK for abortion in 2016.
Mr Harris read out the number of women who travelled to the UK for an abortion from each county, saying “These are not faceless women. They are our friends and neighbours”.
The Minister told the house that the fiercely-debated issue “challenges us to think about what kind of a country we want to be and what kind of a society we are.”
Mr Harris continued “Women from every county have travelled to the UK in 2016 to access abortion, and I think we need to acknowledge them all.” He read that 85 women had travelled from Wicklow.
“Each crisis pregnancy is different,” he said. “And each involves a real woman facing a very difficult, and very personal decision.
Harris also told the Dáil that some woman are having abortions in Ireland by taking pills bought over the internet.
Harris spoke of research that has shown a “62% increase in the number of women from Ireland contacting one online provider of abortion pills over a five year period. And that’s just one provider”.
“Can we just pause and picture what this is telling us? Is it acceptable to any of us that women are once again left in a lonely and scary place sending off for a pill to be sent through the post instead of being able to access the medical advice and support they need?”
“This is happening in Ireland today. That’s a fact. How can we ignore it? How can we consider it alright? If it is the sad reality that we have been exporting this issue, are we now accepting that women must import their own solutions?”
Minister Harris informed the Dáil that he plans to return to government with a series of proposals in the coming weeks, aiming to deliver a referendum by the end of May or early June.