The IFPA provides confidential and non-directive pregnancy counselling services to women who are experiencing an unplanned pregnancy, or a pregnancy which has become a crisis, and their partners. We support a woman’s choice about her pregnancy in all cases, whether that choice is abortion, parenting or adoption. In our written submission to the Citizens’ Assembly, we developed case vignettes to illustrate the wide range of reasons why women seek abortion and the barriers they face in doing so.
Mary* is in the early stages of a pregnancy which is unplanned. This is causing her extreme distress. She has a history of mental illness, with previous episodes of suicidal ideation and intent. Because of this, she does not feel able to continue with the pregnancy. Her GP makes judgmental comments about abortion. He does not give her information about pregnancy counselling. Mary feels completely unsupported by her GP, and this upsets her greatly.
Mary attends the IFPA for pregnancy counselling. As she may be eligible for a termination under the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013, the counsellor explains the assessment procedures under Section 9 of the Act, which deals with risk of loss of life from suicide.
On hearing about the complicated procedures under the Act, Mary worries that going through this may exacerbate her mental health issues. At this point, due to her medical history, she has already attended two psychiatrists at her local regional hospital, as well as her GP. She is shocked by the certification process under the Act: she’ll have to be assessed by two psychiatrists and an obstetrician in order to be certified as eligible for an abortion, and by two more psychiatrists and a further obstetrician if she has to seek a review of the initial decision.
The thought of the assessment process exacerbates her already heightened sense of anxiety about the pregnancy. She doesn’t want to wait; she wishes to end the pregnancy as soon as possible. She is further concerned that if her request for a termination is refused, a lot of time will have passed, and she will then have to face the stress and expense of arranging an abortion outside the state.
Outcome: Although she is eligible to apply for a termination under the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act, Mary worries about the potential delays involved in the process. This, combined with uncertainty as to the outcome, makes her reluctant to subject herself to the process. She decides that her only realistic option is to travel to the UK for a termination as soon as possible.
Download the IFPA's submission to the Citizens' Assembly.
*Mary's account is not based on any one individual, but draws on the experiences of a number of women who have been in contact with IFPA services.