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16th Nov 2022

Calls to remove ‘inhumane’ 12-week limit on abortion services in Ireland

The 12-week limit is said to be harming women.

The Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) has called for the 12-week limit on abortion services in Ireland to be removed.

According to new data published in the sexual and reproductive healthcare provider’s activity report for 2020 and 2021, the IFPA’s early abortion service is “working well”.

However, the provider also warned that the 12-week limit and mandatory three-day waiting period are “harming women” and that the law “must be reformed”.

The IFPA’s CEO Niall Behan said in a statement: “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% 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 IFPA also said that 92% of its clients self-managed their early medical abortion at home.

The other 8%, whose pregnancies were between 10 and 12 weeks or who had other additional medical needs, were referred to hospitals for their abortion care in line with HSE guidance.

“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,” Niall Behan added.

“Our experience reflects World Health Organisation (WHO) guidance, which is clear that gestational limits cause harm and should be removed.”

The CEO also said the IFPA knows from its 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,” he explained.

“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.”

Behan also said the IFPA is aware from its services that the mandatory three-day waiting period causes “distress and delay” to clients.

“It has no health rationale and interferes with women’s ability to make autonomous decisions about their healthcare,” he added.

“It is paternalistic and demeaning for women seeking care and it must be removed.”

Concluding, Behan said 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,” he stated.

“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.”

My Options is a freephone helpline. It provides information and judgement-free counselling to anyone having an unplanned pregnancy. You can contact them here.