Over 6,500 people accessed abortion care in Ireland last year

Over 6,500 people accessed abortion care in Ireland last year

The majority of terminations (6,455) were performed in early pregnancy - up to 12 weeks - while 25 were carried out because of a risk to life or health.

The number of patients accessing abortion care in Ireland was unaffected by the pandemic.

According to the latest Government figures, 6,577 people had an abortion in Ireland last year - just 89 fewer than in 2019.

January saw the highest number of terminations carried out but the introduction of lockdown did not result in a significant drop in numbers.

The Abortion Rights Campaign (ARC) said the fact that people continued to seek abortions throughout the pandemic shows that it is an essential service.

It said the numbers also indicate the success of providing abortion as a telemedicine service something ARC says should be retained going forward.

The majority of terminations (6,455) were performed in early pregnancy - up to 12 weeks - while 25 were carried out because of a risk to life or health.

In terms of fetal anomalies, 97 abortions were carried out following a diagnosis of a condition likely to lead to the death of the foetus.

ARC spokesperson Helen Stonehouse said the system is grossly failing those who receive a diagnosis of a fetal anomaly.

"When this data is combined with the UK statistics for 2020, we can see that over 40% of those who received a prenatal diagnosis still had to travel to England to receive the care that they should have had at home," said Ms Stonehouse.

"At least 194 people from the Republic of Ireland travelled to England or Wales during 2020 for abortion (this only represents those who gave Irish addresses to the UK health providers), and more travelled from Northern Ireland or ordered abortion pills online."

While a number of people did not have to travel abroad to receive abortion care, ARC research has shown a number of patients travelled long distances within Ireland.

One participant in an ARC study said she had to travel from Donegal to Dublin for an ultrasound scan and described the experience as horrendous.

"As I don’t drive I had to rely on public transport in the middle of the pandemic and do a solo trip. It also cost €50, then an additional €20 to get to the surgery each time as no surgeries in my town provide abortions."

Data from the ARC research project shows that people from every county accessed abortion care last year but many of those living in rural counties has to travel outside their county.

As only 10 of our maternity hospitals are providing, those who needed abortion access after nine weeks will also have been forced to travel away from their community and support networks.

"We need all of our maternity hospitals to provide abortion care, and extend community provision throughout the country," said Ms Stonehouse.

In 2020, 60 people who had an abortion gave an address in Co Sligo where there is currently no community provision of abortion services.

One person who spoke to ARC said they were refused treatment by four GPs in their area and eventually had to go outside their county.

"I visited my GP first, assuming she could prescribe the necessary medication, she refused treatment. I had to call My Options to find GPs in my area that perform abortions, I rang three different practices and two of the receptionists were very rude on the phone to me."

The patient was extremely upset and had to contact MyOptions a second time to get contact information for doctors in another county.

Where people have been able to access abortion services in Ireland, many people reported facing stigma and shame.

One patient told of an incident where a doctor told them that she didn't agree with what they had chosen to do.

"A doctor in an Irish hospital withheld a prescription she was advised by another doctors to issue me until she told me how horrific abortion was in her opinion and how she voted against it and absolutely did not agree with what I had done," the patient said.

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