Spokesperson Helen Stonehouse said that, “Despite the pandemic, 6,577 people had an abortion in Ireland during 2020, a similar number to the prior year, showing that abortion is very much an essential service. It also indicates the success of providing abortion as a telemedicine service during the past year, which clearly should be retained going forward.”
“What is not captured in this report is how many people were refused abortion in Ireland, how many had to travel long distances within Ireland or beyond, and how much distress was caused by the unnecessary barriers within the current abortion law. Despite the legalisation of abortion, we know that many people continue to face stigma and shame when accessing abortion care in Ireland.
As part of a research project into current service one patient told ARC
“A Doctor in an Irish hospital withheld a prescription she was advised by another doctor 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.”
Nobody should be subjected to this kind of stigma and abuse when accessing essential healthcare.
Another person who took part in the research reported that
“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. One hung up on me before I even had a chance to say thank you or goodbye. It was very distressing. At this point I had to call MyOptions for a second time, I was extremely upset because I wanted to have the abortion ASAP. She gave me numbers for doctors outside of my county.”
Ms Stonehouse also noted the low numbers of abortions performed outside the “early pregnancy” ground: “Only 25 people accessed abortion on the ground of a medical emergency, or risk to their life or health. This is very similar to the numbers who accessed abortion on these grounds in 2019 and indeed under the highly restrictive Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act. The fact that similar numbers of people access abortion post-12 weeks before and after the Repeal of the 8th Amendment is highly concerning. We are aware that many continue to be forced to travel to the UK or elsewhere if they miss the highly restrictive 12 week cut-off.”
“In terms of fetal anomalies, it is clear that our system is still grossly failing those who shared their heartbreaking stories during the campaign to repeal the 8th. 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.”
“Abortion is an everyday and essential part of healthcare. We can see that people from every county in Ireland accessed abortion care in 2020. However we know that those from many rural counties will have had to travel within Ireland to access care – particularly those from Sligo, where there is still no community provision of abortion services. As only 10 of our maternity hospitals are providing, those who needed abortion acess after 9 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.”
Another participant in our study said that
“Having to travel from Donegal to Dublin for an ultrasound scan was 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.”
“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. These are the failings of the current legislation, which we call on the government to rectify this year as part of the review of the legislation”.
The Department of Health Annual Report on numbers accessing abortion under the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018:
The Abortion Rights Campaign is currently in the process of analysing data collected last year from a survey of people’s experiences of abortion care in Ireland since services began in 2019. The quotes mentioned above were collected anonymously as part of this project.