New data published in the Irish Family Planning Association’s (IFPA) Activity Report for 2020 and 2021 shows that its early abortion service is working well.
Speaking on the launch of the report, IFPA CEO Mr Niall Behan, said: “We see the positive impact of the legalisation of abortion every day in our clinics. Most women in Ireland now have timely access to local abortion care, without having to explain or justify their decision to anyone. This has been transformative for reproductive health.
“758 clients accessed abortion care through the IFPA in 2020 and 2021. 89 per cent of women who attended our service were less than nine weeks pregnant at the time of their abortion. This suggests that women know where and how to access care, which is very positive news.”
The vast majority of IFPA clients (92 per cent) self-managed their early medical abortion at home, according to the data. In line with HSE guidance, 8 per cent of IFPA clients whose pregnancies were between 10 and 12 weeks or who had other additional medical needs were referred to hospitals for their abortion care.
However, as the Department of Health abortion review nears completion, the IFPA warns that the 12-week limit and mandatory three-day waiting period are harming women and the law must be reformed.
According to Mr Behan: “Due to the rigid 12-week limit for abortion care, hospital referrals for pregnancies over 10 weeks can be intensely pressurised and very stressful for women, IFPA doctors and hospital staff. Our experience reflects World Health Organisation (WHO) guidance, which is clear that gestational limits cause harm and should be removed.
“We also know from our specialist pregnancy counselling service that women are excluded from abortion care because of the 12-week limit. Our counsellors support women who are denied care in Ireland and forced to travel abroad for abortion services. These women experience significant stress, distress and stigma, as well as enduring the financial and logistical burdens of accessing healthcare in a different country. Forcing people to travel for abortion care is cruel and inhumane. It must stop.
“We also know from our services that the mandatory three-day waiting period causes distress and delay to our clients. It has no health rationale and interferes with women’s ability to make autonomous decisions about their healthcare. It is paternalistic and demeaning for women seeking care and it must be removed.”
Mr Behan concluded: “There is unfinished business for members of the Oireachtas with respect to abortion law. We know as a healthcare provider that legal restrictions – such as the 12-week limit and three-day wait – exclude, delay and cause harm to those seeking care.
“These barriers must be removed. Robust recommendations from the imminent abortion review will provide politicians with a critical opportunity to address legislative failings, reform the 2018 Act, and ensure access to abortion care for all who need it.”