Lack of information remains significant barrier to abortion services

Lack of information remains significant barrier to abortion services

A significant finding in the report is that patients felt they were not properly informed about pain or amount or duration of bleeding they may experience with an early medical abortion.

More than half of people seeking abortions still do not know how to access services and women continue to travel abroad for terminations, new research reveals.

An extensive project, which evaluated people's experiences of abortion services since the repeal of the Eighth Amendment, highlights a substantial lack of public information on abortion.

An online hub for women to share experiences and ask questions, more counselling, and the introduction of safe access zones, are among the measures suggested by those who have been through the service or who have sought a termination.

Respondents want more information on what to expect 

A significant finding of the research due to the published tomorrow is the fact that patients felt they were not properly informed about the level of pain or amount and duration of bleeding they might experience with an early medical abortion, or how to manage these effects of the medication.

Participants said they wanted more information on what to expect.

One respondent stated: “I wish there was more information on what a normal abortion looks like, and how long it can last.”

Another participant said that “reading people’s experiences gave me an incredible sense of not being alone". She suggested that an online forum where people could ask questions about what they are going through would be helpful.

Many were unaware that abortion care is free

The report, complied by the Abortion Rights Campaign (ARC) and Lorraine Grimes, also recommends that an information campaign be rolled out as many participants were still unaware that abortion care is free and that once a pregnancy is over 12 weeks access to abortion is extremely limited.

More than half of respondents (54%) did not know where to go to get an abortion, and 32% said they did not know where to find information on abortion when they initially went looking.

The study, carried out between 2019 and 2021, reveals that many women have to travel long distances to reach providers. 

Disappointment at scarcity of providers

Many respondents stated their disappointment at the lack of providers, even in urban areas. One person called for more engagement with “local GPs, or even those in regional towns, to maybe increase the chances of them providing abortion care”.

Of those survey respondents who gave further details of where or how they had an abortion: 124 said they had an abortion through the health system in Ireland; 30 outside Ireland; and 12 by importing pills or accessing abortion in some other way. A further 21 people said they tried to have an abortion but were refused care or couldn’t obtain pills.

Of those who said they had an abortion through the health system in Ireland, 59 respondents said they had an abortion through a GP surgery; 24 had an abortion through a health clinic; 25 had an abortion in a hospital; and 16 did not specify where they had their abortion.

Patients welcomed Covid-19 protocols

The report, which comes ahead of the annual March for Choice this Saturday, notes that the introduction of Covid-19 pandemic protocols means that patients are no longer obliged to take the pill in front of the GP, which relieved a worry about beginning the abortion on their travel home from the clinic. The authors recommend that this protocol become a permanent part of abortion care

Likewise, respondents noted that “telemedicine was brilliant” and that it should be maintained after the pandemic.

• The ARC report, Too Many Barriers: Experiences of Abortion in Ireland after Repeal, will be launched at a public event tomorrow Wednesday, September 22, from 11am to 12.30pm. You can apply to attend the launch via Zoom via the link on this page of the AbortionRightsCampaign.ie website. 

Data analyst Lorraine Grimes will outline the key findings and recommendations, and additional speakers will highlight the barriers to care in law, medical practice, and on the ground, and what needs to change in the upcoming legislative review. 

The additional speakers are Dr Mary Favier, a GP in Cork who is co-chair of Global Doctors for Choice; Mairead Enright, a reader in Feminist Legal Studies at the University of Birmingham and founder member of Lawyers for Choice; and Mara Clarke, the founder of the Abortion Support Network.

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