Irish Examiner – 21 January 2010
By Catherine Shanahan and Orla Barry
THREE-in-five 18-35 year olds believe abortion should be legalised, according to a sex survey which found one-in-four women has experienced an unplanned pregnancy.
The national poll also found almost 10% of 18-34 year olds has been involved in a relationship where an abortion took place.
The survey carried out by Red C on behalf of the Irish Examiner found three-in-four women believe the morning-after pill should be available over-the-counter (OTC). Curiously, less than one in seven men said they had been in a relationship that resulted in an unplanned pregnancy. But Dr Stephanie O’Keeffe, research and policy manager with the HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme, said not all men may know their partner is pregnant.
According to the Irish Family Planning Agency (IFPA), the cost of accessing the morning-after pill has been an increasing cause of complaint, particularly in the last 12 months.
CEO Niall Behan said they had also seen a fall in the numbers seeking long-term contraceptive methods because of prohibitive costs. The morning-after pill is inexpensive but a GP prescription is required.
Dr Mel Bates, spokesperson for the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP), does not believe that free GP visits for the morning-after pill would work. "The woman will come in for the pill, but we may deal with many other issues. How would you decide who to charge and who not to charge?" he said.
Kerry-based GP Dr Eamonn Shanahan said he used the opportunity to "talk to her about why she found herself in this predicament and what her plans are for her sexual health in the future".
Family planning clinics, the Wellwoman Centre and the HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme are all in disagreement with doctors over fears about abuse of emergency contraception if it was available OTC.
Dr O’Keeffe said a number of studies had concluded that the pill does not impact on a woman’s primary use of contraception.
The recession may also be impacting on the numbers becoming pregnant. Women in their late 20s and 30s attending Dublin’s Wellwoman Centre on discovery that they are pregnant are less distressed than during the healthy economic times. The clinic believes women see the recession as a good time to have a baby.
"I noticed the change about a year and a half ago" said Dr Shirley McQuade, the centre’s medical director.
"Women in long-term relationships with mid-range jobs were saying this might not be the worst time to be pregnant. Most are working shorter weeks and they don’t see themselves in line for a bonus anytime soon."