– Release date: 29 April 2002
The Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) has warned political parties against running scared of reproductive health and abortion during the general election campaign.
"Throughout the recent abortion referendum campaign political parties across-the-board expressed their desire to see a reduction in crisis pregnancies. However, to date in this election campaign, most parties have remained tight-lipped on the issue," according to IFPA Chief Executive, Tony O'Brien.
"Sexual and reproductive health has always remained the Cinderella of our health services. However, complacency is no longer acceptable in the face of the dramatic increase in Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and the growing numbers of women travelling to England for abortion services. This is coupled with the fact that the IFPA is facing unprecedented demand for its services.
"At present, demand for IFPA services is so high that the waiting time in our Tallaght clinic is now 13 days, except for emergencies such as pregnancy testing, counselling, morning after pill and pill collection. This highlights the need for vast investment in the area of family planning and sexual health.
"The IFPA would like to see greater access to contraception and sexual health care for the most sexually active age groups, as well as high-quality sex education programmes for teenagers. Free access to contraception for under-25s could play a major role in crisis pregnancy reduction and STI prevention.
"There is also an onus on political parties to move forward on the issue of abortion following the rejection of the recent referendum. We have just come through five years of consultations, debates, reports and a referendum on abortion and nothing has changed with regard to abortion, apart from the fact that the number of Irish women travelling to England for terminations is increasing. Political parties cannot bury their heads in the sand on this issue during the election."
From this week, the IFPA will issue election campaign postcards to every client visiting its services. These cards outline a number of key questions on reproductive and sexual health which clients will be encouraged to ask candidates on the door-step. The IFPA does not support any particular party, but it is asking clients to vote for candidates who are best disposed to its priorities.
The IFPA has more than 1/4 million clients on its books and about 1,000 people pass through its service each week.
The IFPA has written to each political party asking them for their position on abortion, sex education, free access to contraception for under-25's and their commitment to increasing Overseas Development Aid to assist in the expansion of family planning programmes in developing countries. The responses from parties will be posted on the IFPA web-site and will be made available to the media.