Almost two-thirds of Irish women accessing abortion services are over 25

Almost two-thirds of Irish women accessing abortion services are over 25

A study of the abortion service demonstrates a well-functioning, safe and effective abortion service, provided by GPs within family medicine.

A study of the abortion service provided by Irish GPs shows 65% of the women applying for a termination were over 25 years of age.

The study, carried out by four GPs based in Cork, is the first in-depth look at the service which began in January 2019.

Dr Patricia Horgan, a member of Southern Task Group on Abortion and Reproductive Topics (Start), said they found the service is working well.

“It demonstrates a well-functioning, safe and effective abortion service, provided by general practitioners within family medicine in Ireland,” she said.

“Using a unique model of care designed by the HSE, it seems to be largely accessible to most women, not all women.” 

She said the older age of women involved should feed into state policy.

Women really do need access to contraception and abortion care right throughout their reproductive lives.

They also found 99% of women applying for an early medical termination were within the 12-week-gestation timeframe set out by the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018.

This includes a three-day wait. Women do not need to give a reason for the termination.

Dr Horgan said: “The mean within the average gestation weeks for women attending was seven weeks. Women seem to know they need to come early.” 

The Irish service pioneered targeted use of ultrasounds to confirm gestational age, she said.

They found just 30% of women needed an ultrasound, which Dr Horgan welcomed as removing a barrier to care.

The study found 33% of the women were using contraception when they became pregnant; this rose to 69% following advice from GPs. They also availed of “a greater variability in types of contraception”. 

The study, published in Science Direct focused on the period of January to June 2019 and includes feedback from 27 GPs who treated 475 women in that time.

Overall, there are about 390 GPs involved, up from 250 at the start, she said.

Numbers are limited, she said, by lack of access to hospital support as only 10 of the 19 maternity units offer abortions.

The question needs to be asked why are they not all providing the service. 

“It is a legal service which women are entitled to,” she said.

Dr Horgan would like to see a review of the services due this year to address hospital provision and also care for women who start a termination before the cut-off but cannot complete in time; they cannot get additional treatment here.

New abortion statistics from England show 20.6% of the 943 abortions for non-residents last year were for Irish residents.

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