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Community-based early abortion care is working well. However, some women continue to experience difficulties in accessing services.
This is according to the annual report of the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA).
Launching the report, IFPA Medical Director Dr Caitriona Henchion commented: “The IFPA analysed six months of data from our early abortion service and found that the vast majority of our clients (92 per cent) were able to self-manage their abortion at home.”
The IFPA’s analysis found that women seek access to care early: 94 per cent were less than 10 weeks pregnant at the time of their abortion.
The model of care in Ireland does not require ultrasound scanning in all cases. Just over half (53 per cent) of clients were referred for ultrasound scanning to confirm gestation age.
Women of all ages presented to the IFPA’s abortion service, with most (85 per cent) aged in their 20s and 30s. Approximately half were mothers. The majority were not using a method of contraception when they became pregnant, whilst others experienced contraceptive failure.
The report highlights concerns about the impact of the 12-week gestational limit on access to abortion care. Five per cent of clients were close to or just over the 12-week limit. Analysis from the IFPA’s dedicated specialist pregnancy counselling service highlights the range of access barriers that many women experience.
Dr Henchion stated: “In our experience, women whose pregnancies are close to the legal cut-off limit of 12 weeks experience additional stress due to the intense pressure of trying to access care in time. Unfortunately, a small number of our clients in 2019 were unable to access abortion care in Ireland because of this rigid legal cut-off.
“Because of the Covd19 pandemic, some women are now in an impossible situation: excluded by law from accessing care in Ireland and prevented by public health restrictions from availing of this essential service outside the State.”
Dr Henchion also highlighted concerns about access to contraception: “Our data indicate that community-based abortion care is working well. But necessary reforms in contraception are lagging behind: cost is still a barrier to some women’s access to the most effective long acting reversible methods of contraception.
“Women experience unintended pregnancy for multiple and complex reasons. But lack of access to a choice of the most appropriate contraception should never be one of them,” said Dr Henchion.