Today, 23rd November 2016, ahead of its AGM, the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) launches its annual Impact Report. The report details 12,044 sexual and reproductive health consultations; this includes 2,869 cervical screenings and 1,193 STI screenings. 3,618 clients accessed contraceptive services.
3,700 pregnancy counselling sessions were delivered by the IFPA last year. This includes 2,039 calls to the IFPA National Pregnancy Helpline, 1,413 face-to-face pregnancy counselling sessions and 230 follow-up support phone calls.
Speaking ahead of the launch, CEO Niall Behan said, “Restrictive laws on abortion are still a major barrier to women’s access to sexual and reproductive healthcare.”
He continued, “We need a legal framework that draws on human rights and international best practice in order to ensure that women’s health and dignity is respected, and to ensure that healthcare providers are supported in providing women with rights-based care.”
Women from every county in Ireland accessed IFPA pregnancy counselling services in 2015. IFPA Director of Counselling, Evelyn Geraghty said, “Unplanned pregnancies affect women everywhere, regardless of social background, educational level or age-group.”
Ms Geraghty continued, “All of these women need good quality information from trusted sources. They need non-judgmental, non-directive counselling. Our counsellors are trained and accredited professionals who are committed to providing practical and emotional support so that women can make informed decisions about their choices, including abortion.”
The age profile of women attending for pregnancy counselling has changed in recent years, with increasing numbers of women over the age of 35 attending for counselling with unplanned pregnancy.
More than half (53%) of IFPA pregnancy counselling clients with unplanned pregnancies in 2015 intended to travel to another state to access abortion services.
Three pregnancy counselling clients in 2015 were potentially eligible to access abortion services under the Protection of Life During Pregnancy (2013) Act. However, none of these women wished to undergo the assessment procedures that would be required for them to access abortion care in Ireland, preferring instead to travel to access for abortion.
Niall Behan said, “The IFPA supports the choices of women and girls with an unplanned or crisis pregnancy in all circumstances. These women and girls should be able to access safe and legal abortion in Ireland if that it their choice.
He concluded, “As a service provider, the IFPA is clear: Irish law on abortion harms women. If we are serious about women’s health, the eighth amendment must be removed from the Constitution as a first step to respecting women’s basic human rights and autonomy.”