Experiences of Late First Trimester Abortion in Irish Hospitals: Suggestions for Change

15 Pages Posted: 29 Jul 2022

See all articles by Aideen O'Shaughnessy

Aideen O'Shaughnessy

University of Cambridge - Department of Sociology

Rachel Roth

Abortion Rights Campaign

Anna Carnegie

London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

Lorraine Grimes

National University of Ireland, Maynooth (NUI Maynooth)

Date Written: July 22, 2022


In January 2019, the Republic of Ireland implemented a new liberalised abortion law, paving the way for the systematic provision of legal abortion care for the first time in the country’s history. Between September 2020 and March 2021, the Abortion Rights Campaign (ARC) conducted an online survey to learn about Irish residents’ experiences of this new abortion landscape. Using a convenience sampling approach, this survey gathered quantitative and qualitative data from individuals who had accessed or attempted to access an abortion in Ireland since January 1st, 2019. A key theme that emerged from the survey data was problems with abortion care between 10-12 weeks since the last menstrual period (LMP). Contrary to international best practice, abortions between 10- and 12-weeks LMP are required by Irish government policy and clinical guidelines to be carried out in hospitals. Our analysis of the survey data found overwhelmingly negative experiences of late first trimester abortion care in Irish hospitals and reports specifically on problems with lack of respect, knowledge and sensitivity from healthcare practitioners, inadequate hospital infrastructure and facilities, delays in accessing care, and lack of choice regarding abortion methods. Abortion care between 10-12 weeks LMP constitutes a critical area of research, policy, and practice, especially given that the provision of care beyond 12 weeks 0 days constitutes a criminal offence in Ireland outside of the limited permissible grounds indicated in the Health Act 2018. This research provides strong evidence for Irish policymakers, regulators, and professional medical societies to update clinical guidance, invest in medical training, and revise policy to allow later provision of abortion care in primary care settings.

Funding Information: This research was funded by the Abortion Rights Campaign (ARC).

Conflict of Interests: Dr Aideen O'Shaughnessy, Dr Rachel Roth and Anna Carnegie are affiliated to the Abortion Rights Campaign. All other authors have nothing to declare.

Ethical Approval: Participants completed a consent form at the beginning of the survey. As a non-academic, activist organisation, ARC sought ethical review by an independent panel of experts who sit on the ethical review board of a leading Irish university. To ensure that the project was conducted to ethical standards, the board of ARC asked two ethical experts to provide an independent ethical review of the project in June 2020. Both sit on Maynooth University Social Science Ethics Review board and so are experienced at reviewing such projects. They conducted this review on an independent basis.

Keywords: abortion, medication abortion, first trimester, gestational limits, Ireland

Suggested Citation

O'Shaughnessy, Aideen and Roth, Rachel and Carnegie, Anna and Grimes, Lorraine, Experiences of Late First Trimester Abortion in Irish Hospitals: Suggestions for Change (July 22, 2022). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4169922 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4169922

Aideen O'Shaughnessy (Contact Author)

University of Cambridge - Department of Sociology ( email )

Free School Lane
Cambridge, CB2 3RQ
United Kingdom

Rachel Roth

Abortion Rights Campaign ( email )


Anna Carnegie

London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine ( email )

Keppel Street
London, WC1E 7HT
United Kingdom

Lorraine Grimes

National University of Ireland, Maynooth (NUI Maynooth) ( email )

2nd Floor
Iontas Building
Maynooth, County Kildare W23 F2H6

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