By Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said that 8,500 women used abortion services last year.
This compares to more than 6,000 terminations of pregnancies recorded in the previous two years.
Ireland’s abortion laws, liberalised following a 2018 referendum, have been the subject of a review as part of legislation introduced in the wake of the vote.
Under the current law, abortions can be performed up to 12 weeks of pregnancy, and women face a three-day waiting period before they can access an abortion.
Mr Donnelly said that he has received the report from experts reviewing the system, and will present it to Cabinet in the coming weeks, after which it will be published.
“Ultimately the review is about improving access to services for women. That’s what we’re focused on,” he said.
He denied suggestions that the system could collapse under demand for services.
“So over 8,500 women availed of termination of pregnancy services in Ireland last year,” he told RTE’s News at One.
He said that the “vast majority of women” have their needs met in primary care, meaning that they can take a pill rather than requiring acute care from a hospital.
Since the new laws have been introduced, discussions have taken place about geographical access to abortion services, as well as creating 100-metre safe access zones around facilities that provide abortion services.
Only 11 of Ireland’s 19 maternity hospitals and units are providing full abortion services as legislated for under the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018.
Some hospitals have said the delay in rolling out all abortion services legislated for is because of conscientious objections by healthcare staff, which is provided for under the legislation.