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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.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by  (@freesafelegalfilm) on

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 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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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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Over the past few weeks, there have been a number of reports of people being abused verbally and physically for their public support of voting Yes or No in the upcoming referendum. 

Anna Cosgrave, founder of the Repeal Project and vocal activist for women's rights, gave her online followers an example of this abuse. 

Uploading a video to her Instagram and Twitter, the Repeal founder highlighted some of the narrative surrounding the opinions of one particular No voter. 

Anna maintained the anonymity of the person in the video who hurls abuse at Anna on the street by not showing the woman's face. 

'God will punish you, you're the Anti Christ. Tiny little gifts from God ye want to see murdered,'  the woman yelled. 

'You dont punish a little child for the sin that the mother couldn't keep the legs closed.'

'We have created a society that advocates this mentality,' Anna wrote when uploading the video.

'It’s not our fault. It’s those that have refused to engage with reality. “ don’t punish the baby when the mother couldn’t keep her legs closed”'

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The referendum to repeal the eighth amendment is shaping up to be the most divisive vote in a generation. 

With about 30% of voters still undecided which box to tick on the 25th of May, we ask two Irish millennials which way they're voting and why. 

Clare, 23, is an Arts student and advocate for the no vote. Aura, 23, is a journalist and volunteer for Migrants and Ethnic Minorities for Reproductive Justice (MERJ). 

Why are you pro-life/pro-choice?

Clare: The conversations I have with my pro-choice friends usually boil down to one question: Is this a life or not?

I recently watched a video of my cousin’s 11 week scan. It really was the most adorable thing! The little baby is stretching, waving their little hand and wiggling around. We found out at just 9 weeks the baby’s eyes have colour in them, and it’s mouth has tiny taste-buds, and at 10 weeks the little baby’s heart is already beating at 180 beats a minute – that’s three times faster than your own heart!

If we are voting to legalise abortion in Ireland, we really must evaluate what it is we are choosing. Most countries legalised abortion before ultrasounds were widely available. Abortion sadly targets a baby that is most definitely alive before an abortion and is not alive afterwards.

This time yes is a step backwards.

 

Aura: I am pro-choice; we must start trusting women in Ireland to make decisions over their body and lives by making abortion accessible here.

The 8th amendment hasn't stopped abortions from taking place, it has made them more difficult to obtain and adds unintended consequences in maternity services.

Activists who secure pills, doctors abroad that perform abortions and ordinary citizens who give women support following a termination are doing the job of our health service.

Some of us cannot travel due to legal status, finances or commitments at home – this means that the 8th amendment disproportionately affects migrant women and women that cannot afford to or who cannot arrange childcare.

As an Irish citizen I am privileged to vote in this referendum, something that many migrant and ethnic women cannot do, despite making up to 39% of maternal deaths in Ireland.

Savita, Miss Y and now Aisha Chithira are the most well-known examples of migrant women who received appalling healthcare, due to the 8th.

What do you think about termination in cases of fatal fetal abnormality, rape and incest or when the mother's life is at risk?

Clare: Would it surprise you to know that we already have legal termination in Ireland? And I agree with it? In 2016, 25 legal terminations were carried out, all because the mothers’ lives were at risk. The 8th Amendment allows for women to receive the best treatment during pregnancy, for their lives and for their babies’ lives to be looked after ‘as far as is practicable’. Therefore a legal termination can be carried out if the woman’s life is in danger.

My heart goes out to anyone who has ever experienced anything like this. They are what people call the ‘hard cases’ and they constitute a very small percentage of all abortions. In the referendum on the 25th May however, we are not being asked to vote to allow abortion in these circumstances. This vote on abortion goes much further.

In May, we are voting to allow for abortion on-demand up to 3 months and abortion up to 6 months on vague mental health grounds (it’s in the bill).

 

Aura: A person who has been raped has been denied their consent. They find out they are pregnant and their consent is then taken again under the 8th amendment. There is no compassion in denying a person the right to end a pregnancy they did not want.

It is unthinkable for people experiencing a fatal fetal abnormality (FFA) to travel abroad for a necessary healthcare service and then figure out the logistics of bringing their child’s remains back to Ireland.

I think the conversation should be expanded a bit too. 

Issues with legal status, housing and financial uncertainty are legitimate reasons for not wanting to continue a pregnancy. Can we not have the same compassion for the asylum seeker in Direct Provision, the college student or the woman facing homelessness?

Why do women need to be brutalised or deathly ill before we give them bodily autonomy?

How do you think the pro-life/pro-choice campaign has been doing in the run up to referendum?

Clare: The word on the doors all over Ireland is that the extreme abortion laws the government are pushing do not sit well with the Irish people. We can take nothing for granted, but I am confident the Irish people will come out and Vote No in May.

In the UK, 98% of abortions happen because of social reasons. The top two reasons given as to why a woman seeks an abortion are because 1. she was not supported and 2. she was not financially able. Knowing this, if we as a society offer abortion as a solution instead of real positive social supports, then surely the fault lies with us.

I truly believe the Irish people are a compassionate and caring people. Positive options exist for women in crisis pregnancies, but they are underfunded and under-discussed. I hope that after the referendum, more attention and focus is given by the government to these services.

Now is an opportunity to build an ever more supportive society for women and children.
 

Aura: Their claim of abortion up to six months is a fallacy. The proposed legislation is for 12 weeks. Because of the similarity of the wording with UK law, they are saying that late term abortions will take place here as they do in the UK.

Abortions at 24 weeks or later are 1/1,000 and happen for devastating reasons, such as a FFA diagnosis. We need to stop punishing tragedy.

Love Both (Pro-life Campaign) are calling for the provision of access to free contraception, improvements to counselling and support services and more sexual education in schools as an alternative to abortion. This group has been around since 1992 – where is the evidence of their work on this?

Youth Defence, or Save the 8th, have cropped up over the decades to rally against divorce, contraception, same-sex marriage, women’s liberation, benefits for unmarried mothers and whose past members have associations with European far-right groups.

They do not have compassion for most living humans I would know.

For impartial and independent information on the referendum see the Referendum Commission website here

 

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Dublin Airport has responded to the news of an intended pro-life demonstration by the Irish Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform.

The centre intends to demonstrate at Irish airports to discourage women from leaving the country to seek abortions, and has sought volunteers and donations. 

The 'airport education project' will hold graphic signs featuring images of what it alleges to be aborted foetuses in an attempt to shock the woman out of leaving for abortions.

 The official Dublin Airport Twitter page has given a response to the potential 'project.'

'In response to queries, under statutory airport bye-laws, the distribution of leaflets, etc and/or the holding of a public meeting or demonstration is prohibited unless approved by the airport.'

'We do not give permission for protests of any type at Dublin Airport.'

Cork Airport has given a similar response.

'Under airport bye-laws any protest is prohibited unless approved by @CorkAirport.'

'We do not give permission for protests of any type, ever.'

Twitter has been in uproar since the news broke yesterday afternoon.

 

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The Irish Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform intends to demonstrate at Irish airports to discourage women from leaving the country to seek abortions.

The 'airport education project' will hold graphic signs featuring images of what it alleges to be aborted foetuses in an attempt to shock the woman out of leaving for abortions.

The Centre also says it will reimburse the airline tickets for those who do not leave the country for their terminations.

The project appealed for volunteers and funding in a recent press release and newsletter to supporters.

'On average 15 women are travelling to the UK via our International Airports to undergo ‘abortion treatment’ or ‘abortion care’ at BPAS or Marie Stopes every working day Monday to Friday,' reads the release.  

'Standing at the airport in the mornings with these images of first trimester prenatal and abortion images entering and leaving these facilities, that expand their cashiers by evacuating wombs, is certain to expose the deception and provide recourse to abortion vulnerable women who no longer want to go through with it.'

'The more days we can organise volunteers to stand there, the more women will see these images and the fewer will undergo abortion.'

The demonstrations aim to take place between Saturday 29 July and Sunday 13 August at Dublin Airport and Cork Airport.

This will be followed by rallies in the city centres later. 

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The Citizens' Assembly is hosting a formal debate between pro-life and pro-choice speakers this afternoon, as the assembly continues to reconsider Ireland's controversial constitutional restrictions on abortion.

Today's meeting is the second of four that will focus on how the 100 randomly selected members should advise government legislators later this year, on the future of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution.

The randomly selected members will hear talks from academics and medical, legal and ethical practitioners on various topics including fatal foetal abnormalities.

Ireland’s Catholic Bishops and the pro-life side have both criticised the assembly's use of the term "fatal foetal abnormalities" in its agenda for the meeting.

A bishops' spokesperson told RTÉ that the term normalises abortion and de-personalises the life of the foetus. 

Individual case studies will also be discussed, including that of Amanda Mellet who received €30,000 in compensation from the Irish Government, after the United Nation's Human Rights Committee ruled that Ireland's ban on abortion was "cruel and inhuman". 

Over 13,000 public submissions were made to the Citizens' Assembly ahead of the meetings, after online campaigns from both sides encourage the public to get involved. 

The proceedings will be streamed on citizensassembly.ie.

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