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Half of counties in Ireland have less than 10 GPs offering abortion care

Published: Tuesday, May 24, 2022

On the fourth anniversary of Repeal the 8th, the National Women’s Council (NWC) called on the Government to address the lack of nationwide abortion services which is severely impacting women and pregnant people’s access to care.

An analysis of HSE data by NWC found that currently:

  • Only 1 in 10 GPs is offering abortion care and not all of them are able to take referrals through My Options, the HSE’s unplanned pregnancy support service for the general public
  • 50% of counties have less than 10 GPs offering abortion services and only four out of 26 counties have a well-developed community network of providers.
  • There is a rural divide when it comes to abortion access, with provision strong in Cork, Galway and Dublin but a much less developed service offer elsewhere, with Mayo, Wexford, Westmeath, Longford and Carlow appearing particularly underserved.

Additionally, only 11 out of 19 maternity hospitals are currently providing full abortion services in line with the law. Research by Dr Lorraine Grimes and the Abortion Rights Campaign suggests service users are travelling considerable distances to access care - 30% of survey respondents who have used the service since 2019 reported travel of 4-6 hours to access abortion care[1].

The data was discussed at a seminar to mark the anniversary of the Repeal referendum which took place in the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin with speakers including Amy Dunne, aka ‘Miss D, Dr Marion Dyer, GP and member of START and Doctors for Choice, Christina Zampas, Centre for Reproductive Rights and Orla O’Connor, Director of NWC.

Orla O’Connor, Director of NWC said,

“We know that women and pregnant people from every single county in Ireland need abortions. Four years on from Repeal, it’s not acceptable that the provision of care is so patchy and piecemeal, something which is particularly affecting rural areas. We need the Government to prioritise community-wide provision of abortion that allows for local, accessible care for all those who need it.

Significant challenges remain in the current provision of abortion services. This includes mandatory wait periods and a restrictive 12-week gestational limit on early medical abortion. Barriers are also linked to the narrow definition of fatal fetal anomalies and the ongoing criminalisation  of doctors, contrary to WHO guidelines. It is critical that the Government uses the current abortion review to address these issues as an urgent matter for women’s reproductive health.”

Dr Marion Dyer, GP and member of START and Doctors for Choice said:

“Since Repeal thousands of women have received abortion healthcare in Ireland without the trauma of forced travel. Abortion provision is however uneven across the country causing significant barriers to timely access to care, particularly for those in remote locations. We urgently need to encourage more GPs to become providers. To facilitate this, we need to see all 19 maternity hospitals providing full abortion services to provide back-up to GPs working in the community.

GPs providing abortion care have made herculean efforts to support women and make this new service work for them. However, we need to ensure better coverage. This will only be achieved if we fully decriminalise abortion as part of the abortion review to remove the chilling effect on doctors and healthcare providers. We also need to introduce legislation for Safe Access Zones without further delay. Finally, we need abortion healthcare education to be included in both undergraduate and postgraduate core medical training.”

Amy Dunne, aka Miss D said,

“After everything women have been through even after repeal we are here today. […] I am speaking out today because I want to help ensure that no woman has to travel abroad for basic healthcare that she should be able to receive at home. I want to see our legislation changed so that doctors in Ireland can put the woman and her needs first and provide the care she needs without fear of criminal prosecution.  What is happening today is not what people voted for four years ago.”  

The webinar was followed by a gathering of Repeal campaigners outside Dail Eireann to mark the anniversary of Repeal and call for urgent measures to address the ‘unfinished business’ of abortion care in Ireland. Similar initiatives were happening across Ireland to mark the Repeal anniversary.

You can access the full breakdown of abortion coverage data here. 

For more information, contact Vicky Masterson Digital Campaigns & Communications Officer 087 100 0385 or Silke Paasche, Head of Communications, NWC, Tel. 085 8589104.

Notes to Editor:

What: Unfinished Business – Marking the Anniversary of Repeal (followed by photocall outside Leinster House at 11:30 am)

When: Wednesday, 25th July 2022, 10 -11 am, photocall at 11:30 am

Where: Seminar at the Royal Irish Academy, 19 Dawson Street, Dublin 2 (Photocall outside Leinster House)

Following a request from NWC, the HSE provided the below response and data

About NWC
The National Women’s Council (NWC) is the leading national representative organisation for women and women’s groups in Ireland, founded in 1973. We have over 190 member groups and a large and growing community of individual supporters. The ambition of the National Women’s Council is an Ireland where every woman enjoys true equality and no woman is left behind. This ambition shapes and informs our work, and, with our living values, how we work.
We are a movement-building organisation rooted in our membership, working on the whole island of Ireland. We are also part of the international movement to protect and advance women’s and girls’ rights. Our purpose is to lead action for the achievement of women’s and girls’ equality through mobilising, influencing, and building solidarity. More information is available on www.nwci.ie