The Irish Family Planning Association performed more than 250 abortions in 2019 and 4.5pc of women experienced complications.
The Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) is the biggest private provider of abortions in Ireland and it has just published a report on their activities in 2019.
Even if it is unofficial and it cannot be verified, this report is the only source of information about abortions taking place in Ireland.
The official annual report from the Minister for Health says nothing about the women who have abortion, besides their county of residence. We know absolutely nothing about their age, marital status, gestation weeks, previous pregnancies or abortions, etc. In other countries, those details are commonly gathered for policy planning and for international comparison but, when the abortion legislation was approved in December 2018, all the attempts to have this significant information included in the annual report from the Minister were rejected.
The IFPA report tells us that they had 1,015 “early medical abortion” appointments, which are appointments for abortions within 9 weeks and administered by pills. (After 9 weeks the service is provided only in hospitals, through pills or surgically.)
1,015 is the number of appointments but only some of them ended with an abortion.
The precise number of abortions performed by the IFPA is not specified in the report. However, the statistics presented are based on a sample of 177 of their clients and, the IFPA says, this sample comprises approximately half of their clients. So, one can gather that about 255 women had an abortion through the IFPA in 2019.
The majority of them (52pc) were in their 20s. This is in line with the demographic characteristics of the Irish residents who had an abortion in England in 2018. About 49pc of them were in their 20s.
Irish women who went to England in 2019, after the legislation came into effect in Ireland, were generally older. Only about 34pc were in their 20s.
The most significant difference is with the 35-39 age cohort. They represent 24pc of those who went to England in 2019 (17pc in 2018) but they were only 14pc of the IFPA clients.
The over 40 age cohort is also smaller among the IFPA clients (7pc), compared to Irish women who had abortion in England in 2019 (15pc), but almost the same as in 2018.
With regard to previous pregnancies resulting in live births, there was no difference between those who travelled to England and those who availed of the IFPA abortion services. 49pc of them were already mothers in both cases.
About 32pc were using contraceptives when they became pregnant.
Roughly half of IFPA clients were referred for ultrasound scanning to confirm the gestational age, which is not required by law. Those who had passed 9 weeks were referred for the hospital or for the English clinics if they were outside the legal gestational limit of 12 weeks.
4.5pc of women who were given the abortion pills by the IFPA experienced complications and were referred to hospital for treatment.
In 10pc of cases the pills failed and the pregnancy tests showed positive. (Some could be false positivie) This rate is quite high. One-third of them was then referred to hospital.
The IFPA report notes there is no mechanism in place at present for the collection by the State of data which are essential to monitor and evaluate abortion in Ireland.
This omission was deliberate at the time the legislation was written. There was a clear attempt to keep the provision of abortion as secretive as possible.
It is a shame that the most informative report about abortion in Ireland comes from a private clinic, which has clear vested interests, rather than an independent public agency.
Hopefully, this will be changed next year, when the legislation will be reviewed.