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IFPA publishes analysis of early abortion care

By 17 November 2020News

Community-based early abortion care is working well. However, some women continue to experience difficulties in accessing services. This is according to the annual report of the Irish Family Planning Association, Ireland’s leading sexual healthcare provider.

Launching the report, IFPA Medical Director, Dr Caitriona Henchion, commented: “The IFPA analysed six months of data from our early abortion service and found that the vast majority of our clients (92%) were able to self-manage their abortion at home.”

The IFPA’s analysis found that women seek access to care early: 94% were less than 10 weeks pregnant at the time of their abortion.

The model of care in Ireland does not require ultrasound scanning in all cases. Just over half (53%) of clients were referred for ultrasound scanning to confirm gestation age.

Women of all ages presented to the IFPA’s abortion service, with most (85%) aged in their 20s and 30s. Approximately half were mothers. The majority were not using a method of contraception when they became pregnant, whilst others experienced contraceptive failure.

The report highlights concerns about the impact of the 12-week gestational limit on access to abortion care. Five per cent (5%) of clients were close to or just over the 12-week limit. Analysis from the IFPA’s dedicated specialist pregnancy counselling service highlights the range of access barriers that many women experience.

Dr Henchion stated: “In our experience, women whose pregnancies are close to the legal cut-off limit of 12 weeks experience additional stress due to the intense pressure of trying to access care in time. Unfortunately, a small number of our clients in 2019 were unable to access abortion care in Ireland because of this rigid legal cut-off.”

Dr Henchion said, “Because of the Covid19 pandemic, some women are now in an impossible situation: excluded by law from accessing care in Ireland and prevented by public health restrictions from availing of this essential service outside the State.”

Dr Henchion also highlighted concerns about access to contraception: “Our data indicate that community-based abortion care is working well. But necessary reforms in contraception are lagging behind: cost is still a barrier to some women’s access to the most effective long acting reversible methods of contraception.

“Women experience unintended pregnancy for multiple and complex reasons. But lack of access to a choice of the most appropriate contraception should never be one of them,” said Dr Henchion.


Contact: Maeve Taylor 086 795 2167


The IFPA’s 2019 Annual Report is now available online.

Annual Report – Key Statistics

  • 13,677 sexual and reproductive health consultations, including 1,200 specialist pregnancy counselling sessions, 1,015 early medical abortion consultations and 1,049 long acting reversible contraceptive devices fitted at IFPA clinics
  • Medical training delivered to 40 nurses and midwives, 12 lectures and workshops on sexual health facilitated, 167 participants in IFPA Speakeasy programmes and 192 post-primary students engaged in relationships and sexuality education sessions.

The six-month analysis of the IFPA early abortion service involved anonymised data relating to 177 clients:

  • 51% of clients were in their 20s.
  • 34% were in their 30s.
  • 8% were under 20.
  • 7% were aged 40, or over.
  • Approximately half our clients (49%) were mothers.
  • 68.4% were not using a method of contraception when they became pregnant. Condoms (20%) and short-acting methods (8%), such as the contraceptive pill, were the most commonly used methods.

12% of clients did not continue through our abortion service.  Of the remaining 155 clients:

  • 94% were less than 10 weeks pregnant at the time of their abortion.
  • 21% took up the offer of specialist pregnancy counselling and 48% availed of STI screening.
  • 53% of clients were referred for ultrasound scanning to confirm gestational age.
  • Uptake of post-abortion contraception was high, with 77% of clients leaving our services with a contraceptive method.
  • 8% of clients were referred for hospital-based abortion care.
  • 5% attended hospital to receive Anti-D only, having self-managed their abortion at home.
  • 4.5% of women in our sample experienced complications and required additional care.

About the Health (Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018:

  • The Act came into to force on January 1, 2020.
  • The terms of the Act include a review of its operation to be commenced by the end of 2021.