Manchester University to undertake part of review into State’s abortion laws

Contract for key plank of review awarded following public procurement process

Manchester Metropolitan University has been appointed to undertake a key plank of the review into Ireland's abortion laws.

The contract was awarded following a public procurement process and will see the university carry out research into the experiences of service providers such as GPs, medical practitioners, medical colleges and the Health Service Executive. The research team will present their findings to barrister Marie O’Shea who is the chair of the overall review which is ongoing.

The Termination of Pregnancy Act provides for a review of the legislation three years after its implementation, and the Government expects all strands of the review to be complete by the Autumn.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has confirmed the appointment of the research university in parliamentary correspondence to Independent TD Mattie McGrath.

“A request for tender to carry out the research into the views of service providers was published on eTenders. The evaluation process has now concluded, and I am pleased to announce that the contract for this important research has been awarded to Manchester Metropolitan University.

“In line with the normal procurement process, my department has been engaging with Manchester Metropolitan University to complete the necessary contractual arrangements. The objective of this research is to capture the views and experiences of service providers and will be a key input to the Review of the operation of the 2018 Act.”

It is understood the university research team will be tasked with identifying any difficulties in providing services and highlight possible solutions, for example approaches taken in other countries.

The overall review in the country’s abortion laws will be split into two main phases. The first involves widespread collection of evidence about how the laws are operating, including the university team’s research into service providers as well as separate research into the experience of women who use the services, and a more widespread public consultation.

The second phase of the review will be led by the independent chair who will examine whether the objectives of the 2018 legislation have been achieved.

The chair will examine all of the information collected in the first phase.

The HSE's Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme has already commissioned research to understand people's experiences of using abortion care services and unplanned pregnancy supports. This research is being led by Dr Catherine Conlon of the school of social work and social policy at Trinity College Dublin.

This will "generate an in-depth understanding of the experiences of women who have accessed abortion care services since the commencement of the Act," the Department of Health said.

There have been calls from some politicians and campaigners to scrap the three-day wait that a woman must complete before getting access to medication.

This Wednesday will mark the fourth anniversary of the referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution.

Separately, research published in the BMJ Journal and led by Dr Lorraine Grimes has examined the HSE's MyOptions helpline and found that some women believed there was a "lack of clarity from MyOptions about the scope of its service and a lack of information on accessing abortion after 12 weeks".

Respondents also “reported frustration that the service did not arrange appointments, explaining that having to contact general practitioners (GPs) themselves was stressful and time-consuming, as was GPs’ refusal to provide care or refer to a willing provider”.