Dr Brendan O’Shea’s experiences as a GP providing abortion care in the first weeks of the new service are familiar to the Irish Family Planning Association’s frontline staff. [‘How to keep abortion numbers down? Free contraception and better education’, Irish Independent, February 20]
It’s important that we make one correction: the IFPA did not “hold out for extra funding for ultrasound services”. We began taking appointments for our abortion care service in the first week of January. Though we do not currently have ultrasound facilities, we hope we will be able to provide scans in future. But for now our doctors face the same obstacles that Dr O’Shea mentions when it comes to ultrasound referrals; indeed we refer our clients to the same HSE-mandated scanning service as GPs.
Our doctors, nurses, receptionists and pregnancy counsellors are working tirelessly to meet the need for abortion care. We are responding to calls from women and girls from all parts of Ireland, while maintaining the quality of the IFPA’s other sexual and reproductive healthcare services.
We are committed to continuous improvement in our services, including by organising training for our staff which was delivered by experts from the World Health Organisation. We have recruited additional doctors and produced patient information leaflets in an easily-accessible format. We’re working closely with hospitals to develop referral pathways that work for women.
And we continue to help those who cannot access services in Ireland: women and girls who fall outside the strict conditions of the legislation and face the same journey to another state that thousands of Irish women made in the past.
Dr O’Shea rightly highlights the need to prioritise free access to contraception and improvements in sexuality education. This week marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of the IFPA’s first clinic. At the time it was a radical act. We’ve come incredibly far in those 50 years, but we still have some way to go to ensure that sexual and reproductive health and rights in Ireland are fully realised.
Irish Family Planning Association
Published in the Irish Independent, 22 February 2019