Rise in number of over 35s with crisis pregnancies

MORE women over the age of 35 are experiencing crisis pregnancies but fewer are opting for an abortion, new figures show.

Crisis pregnancy counselling services have reported a significant increase in the number of older women attending the services in recent years.

Many are seeking help after a planned pregnancy developed into a crisis because a relationship had broken down, they had lost their job or had money concerns.

However, statistics show fewer women aged 35-44 are giving Irish addresses to abortion clinics in Britain and the Netherlands. In 2001, the rate was 2.7 per 1,000, falling to 2.3 per 1,000 in 2009.

Figures also show that the birth rate for women over the age of 35 increased from 12,725 in 2001 to 20,499 in 2009.

The abortion rates for women from Ireland since 2000 are outlined in the final report of the Crisis Pregnancy Agency, a statutory body established in 2001.

The organisation, now known as the Crisis Pregnancy Programme, transferred to the HSE in January.

Since its establishment, more than 30 research reports have been published. And from these, it is known that 28% of women who have been pregnant have experienced a crisis pregnancy, while 23% of men whose partners have been pregnant have experienced a crisis pregnancy situation.

Health Minister Mary Harney, who launched the report, said it showed that the number of women giving Irish addresses at British abortion clinics had declined from 6,673 in 2001 to 4,422 in 2009.

“By any standards, that’s a huge reduction, given there has been a population increase during that period,” she said.

The minister said she did not envisage another abortion referendum being held in Ireland in the foreseeable future, even if there was a change of government.

“We don’t provide abortion here. That is a decision the people of Ireland have made, and we have to respect that decision,” she said.

She said while it made sense for the organisation to move into the mainstream of HSE services, she wanted it to continue to publish its own annual report.

Earlier, former chairwoman of the agency Katharine Bulbulia said it was vital that the strategic focus of the organisation was supported by the HSE to ensure that those who were facing an unplanned pregnancy received the necessary support and care.

Ms Bulbulia said her concern was that the organisation would disappear into the HSE, but she was heartened by what the minister had said about it having its own annual report.

She said the Crisis Pregnancy Agency had played a leading role in reducing crisis pregnancy, improving the standard and availability of services and increasing knowledge of issues relating to crisis pregnancy.

“As a society, we cannot be complacent in addressing an issue which is so prevalent and affects so many,” she said.

The crisis pregnancy discussion took place on the 50th anniversary of the morning after pill, which was marked by the launch of the www.50things.ie website by broadcaster Miriam O Callaghan.



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