Just 24 hours after Ireland’s constitutional protection of the unborn ended with President Michael D Higgins’ signing into law of the referendum result, Health Minister Simon Harris announced that abortion will be provided free on the health service, at the expense of the tax-payer. Is this what the Irish people want the healthcare budget spent on?
Cost no barrier…
“Yes, it is my intention that the services will be free,” Mr Harris confirmed. “I’ve said from the start that I don’t want cost to be a barrier, because if cost is a barrier you get into a situation where one of two things happen, you get abortion clinics to develop or you can see people having to continue to travel.
“I want this abortion services to be provided as part of our healthcare system, our public healthcare system and part of our primary healthcare system.”
According to the Times, funds for the new abortion service will be included in this year’s budget.
On a fee-based system in crisis
Unlike in the UK, under Ireland’s two-tier healthcare system, nearly 70 per cent of the population have to pay fees for healthcare services. A trip to accident and emergency costs €100, a stay in hospital €80, and a GP visit €45-75. Abortion, which will be available on demand up to 12 weeks without reference needed to the woman’s health, will be provided free of charge.
It is estimated that the NHS in England and Wales spends £146 million a year on abortion.
The announcement is provoking anger given that health services in Ireland are already said to be stretched. For example, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation announced today that they are holding a protest tomorrow to highlight unsafe staffing levels and overcrowding; the organisation’s general secretary spoke of a “near-permanent crisis in Irish hospitals.”
Treating sick children – or free abortions?
Wendy Grace writes in the Irish Independent: “So for a life-ending, elective, non medically necessary procedure, cost ‘won’t be a barrier’ but when it comes to 25 children who suffer with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) and a life-saving drug they need, well, this time, cost is a barrier. I imagine,
“Most people would rather their taxes be spent on saving the lives of sick children or making sure cancer patients don’t have to spend €75 every time they need chemotherapy, than on free abortions.”