As the island of Ireland closes its doors for the foreseeable, abortion activists are pleading with healthcare officials to allow abortion medication to be accessed via video platform.
The Abortion Rights Campaign (ARC) is calling for telemedicine and home use of abortion medicines to be made available before Ireland's health services come under severe pressure as a result of COVID-19.
As it stands, those who seek an abortion must meet a clinician in person in order to access services.
The ARC is urging the health executive to consider the use of telemedicine so that patients can meet with a clinician via video platform to source advice while also exercising social distancing.
“We wish to express our concerns regarding abortion provision in Ireland, North and South, during this emergency period we are now entering," Cathie Shiels, co-convenor for Abortion Rights Campaign said.
"We are concerned that a 30-day travel ban will have long-lasting consequences for people on this island who have, until now, been able to rely on travelling to Great Britain to access services denied to them here.”
The group is suggesting that video conferencing platforms – much like those used for remote work conference calls – would be the best practice.
Those impacted the most will be people who need access beyond a 12-week gestation, those whose medical abortions have failed, those who have contracted pregnancy-related illnesses, victims of sexual crimes domestic violence and those who have had a diagnosis of a foetal abnormality where Ireland will not legally treat.
People attempting to access abortion services in Northern Ireland are also at risk, as the provision of services has not yet been fully made available.
Telemedicine facilitates patient-centred care by allowing patients to be seen sooner without having to visit their GP surgery. It is currently being ramped up internationally as stringent isolation practises are being upheld during coronavirus feats.
According to the ARC, studies show that outcomes for medication abortion provided through telemedicine are comparable with the standard provision of medication abortion.
"We call on our legislators to class travel to access abortion services as ‘essential travel’ during this period to ensure those who need access to abortion after the 12-week cut-off point be able to travel to Great Britain," Emma Campbell, Co-Convenor of Alliance for Choice Belfast added.
"We would urge abortion providers to recognise the risk to life and health than those with the virus are facing, and work with them to ensure the best standard of care."
For more information on abortion access in Ireland, visit the HSE's dedicated website.