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Helping our sisters up in the North of Ireland in their fight for reproductive healthcare can take just a few minutes; all you have to do is email your MP. 

We can remember the emotional distress and pain endured one year ago, when the 8th Amendment was repealed by 66 percent in a groundbreaking referendum which shook the nation.

It's hard to believe that a whole 365 days have passed since that moment, and even though the new reproductive healthcare measures are experiencing teething problems, we've changed the law forever.

With Alabama and Georgia passing hugely restrictive anti-abortion laws in their states over the last few weeks, the people of America are rightfully scared at the blatant attack against Roe v Wade. The state has criminalised abortion in any stage of pregnancy, including in circumstances of rape and incest, and is punishable by up to 99 years in prison in six months time, when the law is enforced.

This 1973 landmark decision of the US Supreme Court changed America's reproductive healthcare in the Constitution. The ruling that the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment provides a fundamental "right to privacy" protects a pregnant women's freedom to choose abortion or not.

Right-wing, conservative governments in the Southern states of America are targeting this ruling, and it's causing a Handmaid's Tale effect. Rightfully, focus has shifted back to Northern Ireland, which has even stricter laws.

On May 25, 2018, Ireland voted to pull it's women up and out of a criminalisation system surrounding their bodies and choices. Our hearts break for Alabama, but the North is still part of our home, our island. They deserve a choice too.

The 8th Amendment outlawed abortion in virtually all circumstances; Northern Ireland's laws would put a woman who had an abortion in prison for life, as well as the healthcare provider. 

Women in the North have zero access to legal abortion services unless they travel abroad, and are charged a large fee if they enter the Irish HSE system, despite being next door. Exceptions up North are only made in extreme medical and mental circumstances, but not for pregnancies as a result of rape.

Prison is the punishment for medical staff who perform abortion, unless the procedure is approved by two doctors. More than 900 women travelled to England and Wales in 2017 to 2018  to seek termination.

Alliance For Choice in Northern Ireland have written an emotional letter to the people of Alabama fighting back against this Draconian Trump-era law, which has led to widespread protest.

"We have begged and pleaded with the UK government to hurry up and address these human rights abuses in Northern Ireland for decades. We are still being ignored, so we really hope, like us, you get to the ear of some great politicians and great people on your side as we know how relentless and tiring the whole thing is. Don’t give up hope."

Their message was to fight with everything they had; get arrested, risk having their flat searched, create good relationships with online pill providers and healthcare practitioners, but most importantly to represent the people. Sharing information that is factually sound to the most amount of people is vital.

Grassroots movements are the reason why the 8th was repealed; not a single politician or party. Those 25 white men in Alabama who created this monster don't realise how powerful a group of people who want bodily autonomy can be. While the North has a smaller population than Alabama or America, the Republic is on their side.

While the Alabama laws cannot yet be enforced, up North there are heartbreaking cases which are still ongoing. One Northern Irish woman was reported by her GP for procuring safe but illegal abortion pills for her then-15 year old daughter, and is now embroiled in a legal battle. Things aren't looking good for their political situation.

At the moment, they are over 850 days without a functioning government after Stormont's 2017 collapse, and no legislation has been passed in over two years. The state is being left behind, and so are the women.

Notably, women-of-colour, those from the LGBTQ+ communities, migrants, those with mental health issues and those from lower economic backgrounds are the worst affected. Their lack of funding and policies relating to sexual violence and marriage equality are worth noting, clearly human rights abuses aren't on their list of priorities.

Westminster needs to act to impose fit-for-purpose abortion legislation for NI, seeing as their government is virtually non-existent. The people of the North contribute to the NHS as much as their UK counterparts, and deserve healthcare that represents the needs of their world.

The fears of upsetting the fraught relationship with the DUP and their ultra-conservative ideals are holding the Tory government back from taking this all-important action. In 2017, Labour's Stella Creasy instigated a rule that gave Northern Irish people access to free abortion care if they travel to England.

The costs of travel, emotional and domestic stress of uprooting and stigma-soaked journey to access this healthcare is hugely traumatic. Your own home is uprooting you, your own country is telling you that they don't believe you have the right to make a choice about your body.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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We urge you all to write to your MPs through #NowForNI, as well as donate to groups like Alliance for Choice and Abortion Support Network. 

Don't leave the North behind; it's the power of the people that will complete the final push in this battle, just like Repeal.

Feature image: inews.co.uk 

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Jameela Jamil has opened up about having an abortion when she was younger.

The Good Life actor took to social media to reveal that she underwent the procedure after falling pregnant at a young age. 

The 33-year-old said that the decision was the best one she ever made as she wasn't ready for it emotionally, psychologically or financially. 

Jameela Jamil

She wrote, ''I had an abortion when I was young, and it was the best decision I have ever made for me and, for the baby I didn’t want and wasn’t ready for emotionally, psychologically and financially. So many children will end up in foster homes.''

She continued, ''So many lives ruined. So very cruel.''

Jameela was speaking out against the new anti-abortion law, HB 481, in Georgia, America that will be coming into effect in 2020.

The law will ban abortion at ''any stage of pregnancy.''

Jameela called the law, ''upsetting, inhumane, and blatantly demonstrative of a hatred of women.''

She added, ''It is a disregard for our rights, bodies, mental health, and essentially a punishment for rape victims, forcing to carry the baby of their rapist. I’m so stunned that our world is not only behind, it’s moving backward. This hurts my heart in so many different ways, and in particular as a rape victim. I can’t imagine having fallen pregnant and being FORCED BY LAW to carry his baby to term, and see someone who looked like him every day, otherwise, I can get the death penalty?!''

Jameela Jamil

Her followers showered her with supportive comments, with one saying, ''I’ve been loudly screaming this since becoming pregnant myself – forcing a woman to carry a baby she does not want should be considered torture. I live in Canada. Abortion here is a non-issue. I’m angered for Georgia and the US.''

Others were not of the same mind, with one writing, ''Just say it was the best for you, I understand. Don't say that being aborted was the best for that baby. Your baby. It wasn't.''

This is the first time that the former model has spoken about her abortion but she pleaded with her followers to help in fighting the ban and she hopes that by talking about what she went through, it will help other women to feel less alone. 

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Opening up about something traumatic is no easy feat.

But actor and presenter Busy Philipps has always been candid about the tough times in her life so talking about her termination was no different. 

She got real about what she went through as a teenager during the latest episode of her talk show, Busy Tonight.

In the wake of a controversial abortion law being signed in Georgia, which reportedly bans abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, the 39-year-old spoke out about her own experience.  

She said, ''I hope that whatever it is that you believe personally that maybe you’ll be open to hearing what I’m saying. I know that people feel very strongly about abortion, but let me just say this. Women and their doctors are in the best position to make informed decisions about what is best for them. Nobody else.''

She continued, ''Here is the reality. No bill that criminalises abortion will stop anyone from making this incredibly personal choice, but these laws will put more women at risk. Every woman deserves compassion and care, not judgment and interference when it comes to their own bodies.''

Busy added, ''I had an abortion when I was 15 years old and I’m telling you this because I’m genuinely really scared for women and girls all over the country. Having a regular Tuesday and then suddenly being reminded that people are trying to police your body. And then you just have to go back to work.''

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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After Busy went public with what she said, social media flooded with messages of support for the star.

One said, ''So proud you are using voice to do such good. Never stop.''

While another wrote, ''Beautiful Busy. Such courage and vulnerability. You are supported with love.''

We applaud Busy's bravery in using her platform to talk about such a sensitive topic. 

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Derry Girls don't just show up for their friends on-screen; the cast have now joined the protest outside Westminster to try and change Northern Ireland's archaic abortion laws.

Nicola Coughlan and Siobhan McSweeney have long been outspoken for their desire to reform the state's justice system when it comes to reproductive rights, and they're women of their word.

In 2018, Lisa McGee's Channel 4 comedy Derry Girls attracted well-earned praise for it's hilarious antics, and fast became the biggest show ever to emerge from Northern Ireland. They're back for season two, and some serving of rights while they're at it;

The show is gearing up for it's return on March 5, and now that the cast have gained a high profile, they intend to use their platform for human rights issues.

Two of the shows leading actors are now in Westminster to march hand-in-hand with Amnesty International, delivering a petition asking for the Northern Irish Secretary of State to change the abortion laws.

Karen Bradley is under the spotlight today, as hundreds gather to support the protest. Polls consistently show that the residents of the province want reform, but politicians up North have refrained from speaking out.

The protest shows women marching across Westminster bridge with 28 suitcases; one for each of the women who still have to fly from the North to Great Britain every week to access abortion in the NHS system.

Protesters have delivered a petition with 62,000 signatories, and are on the Prime Minister and Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley to bring abortion rights to Northern Ireland.

Unless there is a serious risk to a woman's life or health, abortion is illegal in Northern Ireland. Unlike other parts of the Britain, the 1967 Abortion Act does not extend to the North.

Feature image: Instagram/@nicolacoughlan

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 A 'Rats Out of the HSE' protest took place today outside the Department of Health's office in Dublin, following a leak of patient information.

The woman had legally obtained an abortion, but was then phoned and harassed by anti-abortion groups, according to TheJournal.ie

The protesters were calling for better protection of confidential patient information and for an external investigation to be launched after last week's data breaches.

Roughly 12 people took part in the protest at lunchtime, carrying placards and holding cut-out rat masks at Miesian Plaza.

A number of investigations were launched last week into the shocking claims.

A woman had an abortion at the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin, otherwise known as Holles Street, and was later verbally abused over the phone by a man who had somehow obtained her personal information.

On Friday, anti-abortion protesters stated that they were given information on when abortions were scheduled to occur at Our Lady Of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda.

Councillor Éilis Ryan of The Workers’ Party has said the HSE needed to clearly explain the steps it had taken to ensure that staff were providing abortion services in a trustworthy, fair and transparent manner.

"It doesn’t seem that any thought was put into how to change the culture of our hospitals to ensure people who might have anti-choice feelings themselves are not biased in how they carry out their healthcare provision”.

Her worry regarding the ability of our healthcare services to adapt without bias is felt by many.

Health Minister Simon Harris has admitted that an internal probe will take place, but “given the scale of scandals linking to the HSE in recent years we don’t feel that an internal investigation can be trusted or is sufficient”, according to Ryan.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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She feels that Gabriel Scally is trustworthy, after he carried out the Cervical Check screening programme review.

Simon Harris said on Friday  that it was “extraordinarily concerning and disturbing” that a patient’s details of her own abortion could possibly become public.

"The idea that anybody might leak a woman’s confidential information is reprehensible, it is grotesque, it’s disgusting and that is why I asked the HSE yesterday to investigate the matter and report back."

The HSE, the Dublin Well Woman Clinic, the National Maternity Hospital and the Data Protection Commissioner are apparently making inquiries regarding the apparent incident. 

Cover image: Twitter/@michelledevane

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The HSE is set to launch an investigation after details of a woman’s medical abortion were leaked in Dublin this week. The woman was reportedly targeted by a pro-life group who somehow managed to get details of her hospital records.

The woman took to a Facebook group to warn others of a fake counselling service. The message has since been shared on Twitter.

The woman explained that she had had a medical abortion on Monday in a Dublin hospital. She shared that after everything had passed she had an internal scan and she was good to go home.

She was told that she wouldn’t need any more scans.

The woman then explained that she received a phone call from an number she did not recognise: “I got a phone call saying to rebook a scan. He gave me my name, my address and told me to come in on Monday.”

The woman then got a text saying where to go, but she felt like something wasn’t right. She then rang the hospital who said they knew nothing about the call.

“I rang him back and I asked who he was and he said my options, but then he started shouting abuse at me saying I was disgusting for what I had done.”

She warned others that the place he was telling her to go is trying to stop women from having abortions and claimed that ‘no voters’ are behind it.

“I want girls to be majorly aware. It scared me,” she added.

A spokesperson for Minister Harris has called for the HSE to investigate the leaked information. They told The Journal:  He has asked the HSE to investigate the alleged breach of patient information. The Minister has been quite clear abortion services should be viewed as a normalised part of the health service and women accessing that service should not be subjected to any intimidation or harassment."

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If you are unfamiliar with the term 'reproductive coercion', it's essentially when another person has more control over your reproductive health than yourself.

Hilary Freeman of The Guardian is now reporting that more women than imagined have no idea that reproductive coercion is a form of abuse.

Studies have revealed that a shocking one-in-four women who attend sexual health clinics report coercion over their reproductive lives, including 'contraceptive sabotage', such as covert condom removal.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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According to BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health, available evidence about the abusive behaviour needs to be updated to 2017 and widen the spectrum of activities involved to include familial pressure, criminal activity and exploitation within sex trafficking.

As well as not being able to choose contraceptives to use or take control of their own reproductive health, reproductive control takes the form of contraceptive sabotage, such as convert condom removal or needling a hole in a condom. 

Not being able to decide whether to start or continue a pregnancy is a major factor, research shows, and the concept of reproductive control (especially over women's autonomy) by others was first described in 2010.

Women's experience of interference with their autonomy goes back centuries, arguably, but research indicates that younger women are particularly vulnerable, as well as those in the black community and racial minorities.

The practice is scarily common, with women having decisions taken away from them by partners, exploiters or family, invalidating consent.

One-in-four women attending sexual healthcare clinics are reporting persuasive methods, emotional blackmail, threatened or actual infidelity and physical violence predominantly perpetrated by male partners but also criminal gangs.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Other examples of contraceptive sabotage include; partners lying about having a vasectomy or sterilisation, refusing to wear condoms, forceful removal of condoms, not using the withdrawal method properly, piercing barrier contraceptives or throwing away contraceptive pills.

Condom removal during sex is referred to as 'stealthing', and is now classified as sexual assault. Spiking drinks or food to induce abortion also was mentioned as occurrences.

The consequences are often emotionally difficult to bear; unintended or unwanted pregnancy, higher abortion risk, higher STI rates and emergency contraceptive usage.

Women in violent, abusive relationships prove especially vulnerable to reproductive coercion, but many are unaware that they are being subjected to reproductive control.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Marie Stopes Australia (@mariestopesaus) on

"The degree of control that a male partner can have will vary from mild to extreme. Milder amounts of control may not be perceived by the victim as unhealthy or abusive."

"Women in a long term relationship may become inured to significant levels of reproductive control," the study's authors write.

The study calls on healthcare professionals must play a crucial part in noticing and preventing this horrifically controlling behaviour.

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There is an anti-abortion protest taking place outside Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, Co Louth today.

Health Minister Simon Harris has spoken out against this at a press briefing, calling it ''quite sad.''

One of the protesters is Charles Byrne, who unsuccessfully challenged the outcome of the referendum on the Eighth Amendment.

He said that those protesting were a group of concerned citizens protesting because, “I deeply and profoundly care about the right to life of every human being…We are here because we believe hospitals need to be places of care through compassion.”

Minster Harris has also condemned a tweet leaking confidential information about an abortion due to take place today.

In response to a tweet from Economist Professor ray Kinsella, Simon said, ''I find it pretty darn despicable actually that somebody would take to social media – that anyone would take to social media and endeavour to create a public conversation about an individual patient's care.''

He continued, ''Any service that is provided legally here in our country deserves to be treated with absolute respect and the confidentiality of a patient must be to  the fore.''

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If you require abortion information or help, please be careful about fake websites.

The HSE has issued a warning about a bogus website which is imitating the newly launched MyOptions website. 

The official MyOptions web page is run by the HSE and provides correct information about abortion services available in the Republic of Ireland.

A freephone line was also established by the HSE with trained professional counsellors on the other end.

You can find the helpline phone number through the MyOptions.ie web page.

However, a bogus MyOptions has surfaced online when users search for the free helpline. 

The fake site reads: "Call us now and book a free ultrasound if you are thinking about termination and need to know how far pregnant you are and all you need to know to be fully informed.”  

It includes an Irish mobile number listed under the contact information and an email address.

The site is linked to an anonymous Facebook page, which began sharing anti-abortion videos in May 2018.

A spokesperson for the HSE confirmed that the website isn't linked in anyway to the official MyOptions helpline or website.

“We are aware of a number of websites and ads that are appearing in search results and social media that claim to be providing unplanned pregnancy support services under variations of the myoptions name,” the spokesperson stated. 

The spokesperson added that unreliable agencies mightn't be "upfront" about their motivation behind the information they are providing people.

“Some unreliable agencies may not be upfront about their intentions and may try to influence a person’s decision. The HSE recommends that people should only visit a recognised or HSE-funded unplanned pregnancy counselling agency,” they said.

“If people are looking at information online, look for the HSE logo.”

They added that the correct freephone number for people seeking information about their options is 1800 828 010. 

The HSE has released a number of warning signs that usually means the source you've sought help and information from, is unreliable.

These include extended periods of time between appointments, meeting in public places such as a hotel or car park and a delay in pregnancy test results.

Your results should be provided to you immediately.

If you receive information or leaflets with limited information and it contains negative or frightening language, is another indication.

Lastly it you are shown inappropriate media such as pictures and videos during counselling sessions is a big red flag, as they are used to sway a woman's choice. 

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The helpline which was set up by the HSE to offer information on unplanned pregnancies to women was reportedly "busy but not overwhelmed" on it's first day yesterday.

The HSE set up the MyOptions helpline in order to act as the main referral path for women seeking abortion services.

On the first day of operation services available nationwide, 20 women sought an abortion according to GPs who have agreed to carry out the services.

The exact level of demand will not be known yet for another number of weeks.

The Irish Times reports that it will be next week at least until the first terminations can be carried out, as a result of the three-day 'cooling-off' period.

The first cases which were referred to doctors ranged from upwards of four weeks' gestation.

In terms of cases which are close to the 12-week limit, they will be facilitated with same-day appointments at the nearest maternity unit.

The flow of Irish women who are travelling to the UK for abortion services is expected to continue, though at a reduced level, as abortions over 12 weeks are not permitted under Irish law except under highly limited circumstances.

The Minister for Health will be notified of the amount of terminations performed within 28 days. 

A number of minor teething issues have arisen involving blood testing procedures and ultrasound provision.

Simon Harris has said;

“The level of preparedness varies, but the initial experience with the HSE’s helpline has been very positive."

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The Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy bill has been officially passed.

All of the amendments have been voted and the bill for the 8th Amendment is on its way to Aras an Uachtarain to be signed by Michael D Higgins. 

The bill passed with 27 votes to 5.

The new law will allow abortion to take place up to 12 weeks, and after that  time if there is a foetal abnormality detected or danger to the woman's health.

Minister for Health Simon Harris confirmed the vote passed in a post on social media.

He wrote, ''Just over 200 days ago, you, the people of Ireland voted to repeal the 8th so we could care for women with compassion. Today we have passed the law to make this a reality. A vote to end lonely journeys, end the stigma and support women’s choices in our own country.''

The people of Ireland took to the polls last May to make abortion legal and now it will be from January 1. 

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Dr. Rhona Mahony has pledged that women whose unborn babies have fatal foetal abnormalities will be offered terminations from January at the National Maternity Hospital.

As the hospital's master, Mahony made the claim after it came to light that some maternity hospitals and GPs won't be ready to begin extended abortion services from January.

A spokesman has said that staff are "working to ensure we have a full, safe and compassionate service in place as quickly as possible".

Dr. Mahony's spokesman continued;

"Notwithstanding the outstanding logistical issues, we expect to provide termination of pregnancy in situations of fatal foetal anomaly from January 1."

Minister for Health Simon Harris rejected implications that the January target for abortion services was aligned with politics, and has commented that this claim was 'offensive'.

He added that the services will not be available everywhere straight away, and that it needed time to embed and evolve with the help of clinicians. 

Yesterday, the Seanad continued with their debate on the Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy Bill.

Dr Sharon Sheehan, master of the Coombe hospital, has commented that her new system of service won't be ready by January.

She said; "To ensure the provision of "safe, high-quality, sensitive and compassionate care for women", it is essential to have the finalised legislation in place, an agreed model of care nationally and national clinical guidelines.

She continued;

"There has been extensive work, and that is continuing to proceed at a pace, but they are not ready and we now have only 20 days before this service is to be introduced.

"In my opinion, the country is not ready, and therefore the Coombe is not in a position to deliver these services from the January 1."

The Rotunda maternity hospitals spokeswoman commented that;

"Rotunda Hospital will be complying with enacted legislation providing the appropriate model of care, resources and funding is in place to enable a safe service provision to women".

The Irish Family Planning Association has also said that an exact date of availability for abortion services cannot yet be offered;

"We are still working on a number of outstanding issues. We're working to resolve them as quickly as possible and we're making good progress. We won't delay in providing abortion care once that's done".

The Irish College of General Practitioners and the Institute of Obstetricians are set to meet today for the discussion of clinical guidelines which are seen as essential for doctors.

A 24/7 helpline will hopefully be advertised by the HSE once the legislation is passed for guiding women, GPs and hospitals.

Feature image: BusinessPost.ie

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