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What is abortion?

Learn about abortion and who you can talk to if you are considering a termination

Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in health

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Many women and girls can experience an unplanned pregnancy, for many different reasons. Some decide not to continue with the pregnancy and to have an abortion. Others choose to continue with the pregnancy and choose parenting or adoption.

If you are experiencing an unplanned pregnancy, you may wish to speak to a pregnancy counsellor. The Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) operates free and non-judgmental pregnancy counselling at 11 locations across Ireland and provides information on all your options. To make an appointment, call the IFPA National Pregnancy Helpline 1850 49 50 51 (Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm).

What is an abortion?

Abortion is the termination or ending of a pregnancy before birth and can occur due to a medical or surgical intervention. There are different abortion procedures and the method used depends on how long you have been pregnant.

I have an unplanned pregnancy and want an abortion. Who can I talk to?

An unplanned pregnancy can cause a range of feelings and emotions. Sometimes an unplanned pregnancy can also bring up other issues and concerns. Talking to someone you trust, like a family member or a friend, can help. Speaking to a professional pregnancy counsellor can also help you make sense of mixed or confused feelings. During a counselling session, counsellors will listen to you and help you explore and work through your feelings. They will also give you information about your pregnancy options – abortion, parenting and adoption.

Positive Options is a directory of state funded counselling services that provide free, non-judgemental counselling and support to women and girls with an unplanned pregnancy. If you are under 16, and your parents aren’t aware of your pregnancy, the counsellor will work with you to talk to your parents and involve them in the process.

It is important to note that not all services listed in Positive Options provide information on abortion. Two specific agencies – Cura and Anew – will not provide information on abortion services abroad.

The IFPA counselling service provides information on all your options, including abortion.

Can I get an abortion in Ireland?

Abortion is only legal in Ireland when a pregnant woman's life is at risk. This includes the risk of suicide. Access to abortion in such cases is governed by the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013. Abortion is not legal in Ireland in cases of rape, incest or fatal foetal anomalies. Abortion is also criminalised in most circumstances in Northern Ireland. This means that most women and girls living in Ireland who seek abortion must travel to another country where abortion is legal.

Women have the option of travelling to the UK or other EU countries such as the Netherlands to access abortion services. You do not break any Irish law by seeking information on abortion or by travelling to another country for an abortion where the procedure is legal.

The 8th Amendment of our constitution restricts access to abortion in Ireland. A referendum will be held on 25 May 2018, when Irish people will vote on whether or not they want to remove the 8th Amendment from our constitution.

Learn more about the 8th Amendment here.

How early or late in a pregnancy can an abortion take place?

This depends on the laws in the country to which you intend on travelling. Most women in Ireland travel to the UK or Netherlands where abortion is available up to 24 weeks of pregnancy. However, most women and girls from Ireland travel for an abortion at an early stage of the pregnancy.  

What happens during an abortion?

There are different abortion procedures. The method used depends on how long you have been pregnant:

Early medical abortion

The abortion pill - up to 10 weeks of pregnancy

An early medical abortion can be carried out up to ten weeks of pregnancy and involves taking a combination of drugs to cause an early miscarriage. It does not involve any surgery and does not need an anaesthetic. You may experience cramping pain and heavy bleeding. You may need two visits to the clinics which may be in one day (6hrs or 3 days apart). No surgery or anaesthetic is involved. It is recommended that you do not travel until the pregnancy has passed (90% of women will pass the pregnancy within 4 hours of taking the second medication).

Abortion pill between 10-24 weeks

Medication causes the womb to contract and push out the pregnancy. From 22 weeks an injection to the womb may be required. At least 2 visits to the clinic are required. Sometimes an overnight stay at the clinic is needed at the second visit.

Surgical abortion

Vacuum aspiration method up to 15 weeks

Removes the pregnancy by gentle suction. Up to 12 weeks can be done under local anaesthetic (awake), up to 15 weeks can be done under general anaesthetic (asleep).

Dilation and evacuation between 15 weeks- 24 weeks of pregnancy

The pregnancy is removed using narrow forceps through the neck of the womb. Carried out under general anaesthetic (asleep). Treatment undertaken at over 20 weeks may require more than one visit and an overnight stay.

How much does an abortion cost?

The cost of an abortion varies in each country. It can cost between €600 and €2000, depending on the clinic and the type of procedure. This does not include flights and, if necessary, accommodation.

There are no financial grants available to pay for an abortion. The UK based Abortion Support Network provides financial assistance and accommodation to women and girls travelling from the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Funding is available on a case by case basis depending on financial need and availability of funding

Post-abortion care

A free post-abortion medical check-up is available to women and girls living in Ireland who have had an abortion. This is recommended two weeks after your abortion and is to make sure you have recovered both physically and emotionally after the procedure and are not worried about anything. Free counselling is also available for women and girls who wish to talk to someone after an abortion.

For more information, visit Abortion Aftercare and IFPA website.

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Published February 20th, 2013
Last updated April 17th, 2018
Tags abortion pregnancy sexual health
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