Irish Family Planning Association to provide abortion services from January 7th

Referral pathway must be finalised by HSE before service can begin, says medical director

Dr Caitriona Henchion, Irish Family Planning Association medical director: ‘Most important is the referral pathway.’ File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Dr Caitriona Henchion, Irish Family Planning Association medical director: ‘Most important is the referral pathway.’ File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

The Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) is to start providing abortion services from January 7th – but only if the proper supports are in place.

Having completed its preparations for providing abortions, the IFPA intends to begin the service at its clinics in Dublin city centre and Tallaght next month “as long as the key elements of HSE services are finalised”.

“Our abortion care service can only begin as planned if the medication and pregnancy tests are supplied on time, and the protocols for rhesus testing and the provision of anti-D are finalised,” medical director, Dr Caitriona Henchion, said. “Most important is the referral pathway.

“Our clinics will be providing early medical abortions up to nine weeks’ gestation. Patients who have their first appointment with us and are between nine and 12 weeks’ pregnant will need to be referred for hospital care. We cannot arrange those first appointments until we are certain those referral pathways are in place.”

The organisation said it would continue to provide its crisis pregnancy counselling and post-abortion care services. “We will also continue to give support and information to women and girls who will need to travel abroad for care because they fall outside the provisions of the legislation,” said chief executive Niall Behan.

Mr Behan said the IFPA was proud to be at the vanguard of the new services after campaigning for abortion rights for decades.

“The IFPA has been advocating for full reproductive healthcare in Ireland for 50 years,” he noted. “The organisation was founded at a time when even basic contraception was illegal in this country. We’re now at a place where we can provide safe and legal abortion care for women and girls in Ireland and this is truly momentous. We’ve been working hard to ensure that we can deliver the best possible care.”

The new service had been developed in an “extremely tight timeframe” set by the Minister for Health Simon Harris, he said. “The onus is on the Department of Health and the HSE to ensure that women who seek abortion care have timely access and don’t encounter any barriers.”

The Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018 which legislates for the provision of abortion for the first time in the history of the State was signed into law by President Michael D Higgins on Thursday.