Following a government decree of 5 June 2016, midwives will soon be able to provide medical abortion pills up to seven weeks of amenorrhoea (nine weeks LMP) without the supervision of a gynaecologist. To promote knowledge of this new policy, the Department of Health launched a communications campaign on 22 June to raise public awareness of this expansion of midwives’ roles.
In England, where the study took place, an ultrasound scan is a routine part of pre-abortion care in order to confirm the number of weeks of pregnancy, even though both the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (RCOG) said in a 2011 guideline, as has the World Health Organization in 2012, that this is not clinically necessary.
Irish medical students completed an 18-item anonymous questionnaire, measuring knowledge and attitudes regarding abortion, and current Irish abortion law. The majority of students, regardless of mode of entry, believed abortion was justified where there was a real risk to the life of the woman (including risk of suicide) or in cases of fetal non-viability. The most significant determinant of students’ beliefs was religious adherence and continent-of-origin.
The issue of abortion has once again found itself back on the agenda of decision-makers, but unfortunately it seems no one is willing to sit down and talk it over. Is it really so hard to do?
On 30 June 2016, the Irish Parliament debated a private member’s bill by Independents4Change allowing abortion in cases of fatal fetal abnormality, if a qualified perinatologist and an obstetrician certified in good faith that the condition of the fetus was incompatible with life. The Minister said he was not opposed to the purpose of the bill, but the Government would not be supporting it because the Attorney General believed it was unconstitutional, due to the clause giving equal right to the life of mother and baby – even though the baby would not survive no matter what.