Women may fear seeking advice after taking abortion pills, GPs say

Rising use of online drugs to induce termination a concern, Oireachtas committee told

Some unaccredited pregnancy counselling agencies are providing ‘inaccurate’ and ‘harmful’ information to women

Some unaccredited pregnancy counselling agencies are providing ‘inaccurate’ and ‘harmful’ information to women


The rising use of abortion pills ordered online in Ireland is a “concern”, particularly as women who used the pills “may fear presenting to Irish health services if they develop problems”, the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) has said.

Dr Brendan O’Shea, director of the postgraduate resource centre and Dr Karena Hanley national director of GP training at the ICGP are addressing the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment on Thursday on GP’s management of crisis pregnancy situations.

The group’s submission states it is “likely” that many women who take pills ordered online to induce an abortion “may not report this to Irish doctors, which could impact their health.”

The General Practitioner training body’s written submission to the Oireachtas committee, states GPs have a legal obligation to provide pregnancy counselling and “discuss all options in a non-directive manner where a woman wants information on abortion”.

Travelling abroad for abortion services negatively impacts the physical and mental health of Irish women, the submission states.

The ICGP’s submission outlines “when a pregnancy is unwanted, Irish GPs support and provide evidence based care for women through this difficult experience.”

Statistics provided by the group’s submission outlines 21 per cent of Irish women in crisis pregnancies choose to have an abortion. The majority of women who present with a crisis pregnancy proceed to parenthood (62 per cent), and 14 per cent of studied pregnancies end in a miscarriage, and 1 per cent in adoption.

Contraceptive services

Speaking to the committee this afternoon Dr Karena Hanley said “abortion rates are lowest in health systems where contraceptive services are most readily available”. In Ireland there are “real and important barriers” accessing contraception, mainly due to financial cost, and particularly for adolescent women, she said.

Some unaccredited pregnancy counselling agencies are providing “inaccurate” and “harmful” information to women in crisis pregnancy situations, the committee heard. The area of pregnancy counselling services needs to be regulated in Ireland, Dr Hanley said.

Dr Hanley of the ICGP said while aftercare services for women who choose to terminate a pregnancy abroad are available in Ireland, only a small portion of women avail of them. “We think that about 15 per cent of women who avail of medical abortion will be in contact with medical services afterwards, so the vast majority don’t” she said.

Vote within weeks

The Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment will hold its first public discussion on what recommendation they will make on the position of the Eighth Amendment next Wednesday, with a vote on the issue to be held in the next number of weeks.

At a closed session of the committee on Thursday it was decided the group would take further legal advice from senior barrister Nuala Butler SC next Tuesday on the options for changing Ireland’s abortion laws, before publicly debating the issue on Wednesday evening.

Several members of the committee submitted motions to recommend the repeal of the Eighth Amendment in a private session on Wednesday, rather than replacing or amending the article in the Constitution. The constitutional amendment places an equal right to life on the pregnant mother and the unborn child.

Solidarity TD and committee member Ruth Coppinger said “I would say there will be a vote in the next two weeks”. Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy also said “some people are ready to do it now” and vote on the issue as soon as possible.

Although it is understood some committee members in Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil feel it is too early in the committee’s process to take a vote on whether the Eighth Amendment should be repealed or replaced from the Constitution.

Chair of the committee Senator Catherine Noone said a vote would be held on the position of the Eighth in the “medium term”. She said “it is up to the committee to decide what date that vote will be taken”.

The committee was set up to examine the findings of the Citizens’ Assembly, which recommended increasing access to abortion services in Ireland on a wide number of grounds.