Three-day reflection and abortion law

Minister for Health should retain the three-day period of reflection

Sir, – We, as doctors, nurses, midwives and healthcare professionals in Ireland, strongly urge the Minister for Health to retain the three-day period of reflection before a woman undergoes an abortion.

Despite the personal and campaigning opinions being expressed in favour of scrapping the three-day waiting period, there is no medical basis for doing so.

There is evidence, however, from information released to Carol Nolan TD, that significant numbers of women may change their mind after the first visit to a GP or clinic, and decide during the three-day period not to proceed with an abortion.

According to the HSE, there were 8,057 initial consultations for termination of pregnancy services in 2020. In that year, the Department of Health also confirmed that 6,577 abortions were carried out. We concur with Ms Nolan’s conclusion that more than 1,400 women appear to have changed their mind and did not go ahead with an abortion during the three-day period.


That means that 18.4 per cent – or almost one in five women – did not proceed with an abortion after the initial consultation.

Similarly, in 2019, some 7,536 initial consultations were provided while 6,666 abortions took place, suggesting that some 870 women or 11.5 per cent changed their mind during the three-day waiting period.

This data offers a hugely important insight that must not be ignored. There are very few Irish people, whether healthcare professionals or otherwise, who would welcome an increase in the number of abortions taking place. If women are finding support for an unexpected pregnancy during the three-day wait, then that should be welcomed.

Contrary to assertions that have been made by some healthcare professionals, there has already been a significant increase in the number of abortions in Ireland. In 2018, less than 3,000 women travelled to Britain for abortion, while it is estimated another 1,000 may have used abortion pills.

The Department of Health tells us that in the first year of legalisation, 6,666 abortions took place in Ireland – a huge increase by any standards. Most reasonable people would oppose changes that might led to another sharp increase in the number of abortions taking place.

We reject claims that the three-day wait is “paternalistic”. In fact, we believe this assertion ignores the very real conflict and difficulties women can often face when society fails to offer the real support needed for an unexpected pregnancy. Women deserve better than being deprived of the time to think.

Finally, we recall that Simon Coveney used the three-day waiting period to assure voters in the 2018 referendum that “strict guidelines” would apply to the abortion legislation. The waiting period was “very important”, he said, because the “magnitude of terminating a pregnancy was part of the decision making” when it came to abortion.

We urge the Minister for Health and our TDs to now remember that promise and to retain the three-day period of reflection. To do otherwise would be a betrayal of voters, but worse still, a dereliction of duty to mothers and babies. – Yours, etc,

Dr Siobhan Crowley,

Dr Trevor Hayes OBGYN,

Dr Thomas Carroll,

Dr Ronan Cleary,

Ann Bowers,

Ann Flynn,

Loretta Quinlan,

Dr Annemarie Cunningham,

Anna Finnegan,

Anne Mahoney,

Dr Rachel Duignan,

Dr Phil Boyle,

Dr Ann O’Hanlon,

Dr C Crowley,

Avril O’Shaughnessy,

Brigid Haran,

Caroline Mullin Sheen,

Dr Andrew O’Regan,

Dr Ben Parmeter,

Dr Bernadette Finneran,

Mary McKeown,

Dr Breda O’Sullivan,

Caroline O’Gara,

Carolyn O’Meara,

Catherina O’Sullivan,

Ciara Murphy,

Clare Devaney,

Dr John Monaghan OBGYN,

Clare Doherty,

Dolores Campbell,

Dr Ann Barry,

Dr Cliodhna Donnelly,

Dr Jane Holland,

Áine Celine Molloy,

Dr Janina Lyons,

Dr Katarzyna Wozniak,

Dr Maeve Bradley Cronin,

Angela Cunningham,

Dr Mary O’Carroll,

Dr Brendan Crowley,

Dr Caroline Guindon,

Dr Jane Morrissey,

Fiona Mc Hugh,

Dr Jean Engela,

Karen Ludden,

Dr John Kehoe,

Dr John McKeown,

Dr Malgorzata Wawrzynek,

Dr Marek Lorenc,

E Wall,

Eamonn Henry,

Elaine Greene,

Dr Myles Monaghan,

Dr Anne Mary Phelan,

Margaret McGovern,

Lauren Manning,

Lena Kelly,

Dr Aisling Bastible,

Elizabeth Cullen,

Ellen O’Shea,

Erica Algeo,

Fionnuala W Darby,

Katarina Giertlova,

Kate Murphy,

Dr Margaret


Dr Micheal Cooke,

Katherine Fitzgerald,

Kay O’Dwyer,

Lucy Mc Donald,

Victoria Gracia Mendoza,

Máire Kiely,

Maeve Clifford,

Dr Helen Barrow,

Dr James Stacey,

Mairead O’Driscoll,

Margaret Goulding,

Marie Loughran,

Dr Deirdre Gleeson,

Dr Felim Donnelly,

Mary Haran,

Mary Hussey,

Dr Murrough

Peter Birmingham,

Dr Séamus Engela,

Mary McDonagh,

Maura Mc Morrow,

McKenzie Kelly,

Dr Sarah Brennan,

Miriam Heffernan,

Monika McMahon,

Dr Nnaji Akamnonu,

Philomina Solai,

Rebekah Dilworth,

Dr Kirsten Fuller,

Dr Máire Nic Ghearailt,

Rosamma George,

Siobhan Wharton,

Treasa Moriarty,

Dr Patrick Hallihan,

Stephanie Wright,

Theresa Shanahan,

Veronica Morrison,

Dr Patrick Kelly,

Dr Pauline Cushman,

Doctors for Life Ireland,


Co Kildare.