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Five more hospitals to provide abortions from this month

Expansion of service to Kilkenny, Letterkenny, Wexford, Portlaoise and Ballinasloe sees terminations become available in 17 out of 19 maternity units

Five more hospitals will start carrying out abortions in December, more than five years after legislation providing for terminations of pregnancy was passed.

The commencement of terminations in St Luke’s hospital, Kilkenny; Letterkenny University Hospital; Wexford General Hospital; Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise; and Portiuncula hospital, Ballinasloe, follows the recruitment of staff specifically tasked to provide the service.

With this latest expansion of the service, 17 out of 19 maternity units in the Republic will be carrying out terminations.

It is expected terminations will be provided in the two remaining units – Cavan General Hospital and South Tipperary General Hospital, Clonmel – next year.


Since 2019, women can access the abortion pill up until nine weeks’ gestation at a GP clinic. Between nine and 12 weeks’ gestation, a woman who needs to access a termination can do so in a hospital setting.

All 19 maternity units have been offering termination-related services such as ultrasound scans, support for women with post-termination complications and care where the mother’s health/life is at risk or following diagnosis of fatal foetal anomaly.

However, the provision of terminations has been held up in many areas due to factors such as staff opposition or reluctance, a lack of staffing and problems with physical infrastructure.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, who is expected to announce the extension of the service on Friday, has identified the provision of terminations in all 19 maternity units as one of his main priorities. The Minister is understood to have intervened directly with some hospitals that were slow to provide the service.

With the recruitment of additional consultant obstetrician and gynaecology posts since 2018, all maternity units now have a minimum of six whole-time-equivalent posts in this speciality.

A recent review of the State’s termination law found abortion services were “untenable” in some parts of the country because of uneven geographic coverage. The review also found that in some parts of the country, services were at risk of “ceasing altogether” were the provider to withdraw the service.

Half of the counties in the Republic have fewer than 10 GP contracts for the provision of abortion services while nine counties have fewer than five GPs providing abortion care, the report found.

Legislation to deter protests by creating “safe access zones” outside abortion providers recently passed all stages in the Dáil and is due to enter the Seanad this month.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times