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18th Apr 2021

When it comes to reproductive health in Ireland, disabled people are being left behind

Sarah McKenna Barry

Access to a wide range of services remains a huge issue in Ireland.

A conference taking place at the end of this month will explore the real-life experiences of disabled people in Ireland in accessing reproductive health services.

The event, which is the first of its kind, is presented by Re(al) Productive Justice, a project based at the Centre for Disability Law and Policy at NUIG.

The overall aim of Re(al) is to “make visible the experiences of disabled people in Ireland seeking reproductive justice”.

Their Online Roadshow, which takes place on April 27th, will shine a light on the issues people with disabilities face when it comes to accessing services relating to fertility, contraception, abortion, pregnancy, childbirth and parenting.

The conference will share insights into the experiences of Irish disabled people seeking reproductive services. Since 2019, researchers Prof. Eilionóir Flynn, Dr. Áine Sperrin, Dr. Jenny Dagg and Maria Ní Fhlathartha have been collecting oral testimonies to gauge the accessibility of services in Ireland.

The project, which will continue into 2022, will act as a toolkit to encourage health, social and legal practitioners to respect the rights of disabled people to make their own decisions regarding their reproductive health.

Since the project began, a number of issues faced by people with disabilities have come to the fore.

For instance, the Health Act of 2019 permits termination for up to 12 weeks gestation. However, in some cases, the pregnant person may not realise they are pregnant within that time-frame as a result of various medications.

The general accessibility of services is also a barrier for many. When the MyOptions helpline began, it operated solely as a phoneline. When Re(al) informed MyOptions that phonelines are inaccessible for many people, they worked to amend the issue. They quickly introduced a web-chat and text function.

Re(al) hopes that their findings will help ensure that reproductive services in Ireland become accessible to all.

The Online Roadshow will take place on Tuesday, April 27th at 2pm. Booking for the event is available through Eventbrite and ISL interpretation will be provided.