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Data supports prevailing medical view that the 3-day wait is inappropriate and paternalistic says Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA)

By 19 April 2023April 21st, 2023News

—Vast majority make their decision before they see a doctor and then access abortion as soon as they can —

The Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) has, today (19.04.23), released an anonymised analysis of early abortion access among its clients from 2021, with a focus on the mandatory three-day waiting period.

The IFPA is a leading provider of early abortion care. In 2021 almost 500 clients attended for early abortion care. This analysis of client data sought to shed light on women’s decisions about their pregnancies in the context of the three-day mandatory waiting period.

Dr Caitríona Henchion, IFPA Medical Director said: “Our data insights are in line with the views and experiences of leading medical experts, and of the World Health Organisation, that an enforced waiting period before abortion care is unjustifiable and patronising.”

Dr Henchion said, “459 of our clients who attended for early abortion care were eligible for abortion. We do not know the outcomes for 12 clients, as they made no further contact after their initial consultation.

“Of the remaining 447 clients for whom the outcome is known, 97.5% accessed abortion care after the mandatory 3-day wait.

“Of these, 87% received their care from the IFPA and 10.5% were referred to a hospital, in accordance with HSE guidelines. Our records for 2021 indicate that 2.5% of our clients continued their pregnancies.”

Dr Henchion explained: “We looked initially at anonymised data for 484 clients who attended for a first abortion consultation. Within this sample, 25 clients were ineligible for continued abortion care, because they experienced a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy or had a negative pregnancy test at their first consultation. The waiting period was therefore not relevant in these cases.”

Dr Henchion said: “The vast majority of our clients who attend for abortion care make their decision before they see a doctor and then access abortion as early as possible. There is nothing in our data to indicate that the three-day wait, required by law, influences their decision.

“We know from our services that the mandatory waiting period causes delay, stress and harm to women. And can make it too late to avail of care. An experienced doctor would always encourage their patient to take additional time to make their decision if that is needed. But it is inappropriate and paternalistic to impose a waiting period on every person who seeks abortion care.”

This data is being released ahead of the report on a review of the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy Act) 2018 which is due to be published shortly by the Minster for Health.

“We hope that the review process will result in the removal of barriers to timely access to abortion, including the medically unnecessary and arduous waiting period,” added Dr Henchion.



Contact: Maeve Taylor, Director of Advocacy and Communications




  • Abortion in Ireland is regulated by the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018. A woman or pregnant person can have an abortion for any pregnancy that is less than 12 weeks. The decision is theirs and they do not have to explain their reasons to anyone.


  • Early medical abortion care can be accessed from a providing GP, family planning clinic or women’s health centre up to 9 weeks and 6 days of pregnancy.


  • After 9 weeks and 6 days of pregnancy, HSE guidance is that people should be referred by their doctor to have their abortion in a hospital.


  • Those accessing abortion under 12 weeks of pregnancy are required to attend two doctors’ appointments. Between the first and second appointment, there is a three-day waiting period. This is imposed by law and cannot be waived.


  • The IFPA offers non-directive and non-judgemental specialist pregnancy counselling to all our abortion care clients. This can be a particular support during the stress and anxiety that some people experience during the mandatory waiting period. As a pro-choice organisation, the IFPA supports people whatever their decision, whether this is abortion, parenting or adoption.


  • Abortion care and specialist pregnancy counselling are free to residents of Ireland and are funded by the HSE.