by Lorraine Grimes, Aideen O’Shaughnessy, Rachel Roth, Anna Carnegie, Deirdre Niamh Duffy
BMJ Sexual and Reproductive Health, Online First: 14 March 2022. (Not Open Access)
Background – In 2018, the Irish government enacted a liberalised abortion law permitting expanded access to abortion from January 2019. A dedicated information and support service – MyOptions – was established to provide non-directive counselling and clinical advice about unplanned pregnancy. MyOptions provides contact details for abortion providers but does not make appointments for abortion-seekers. In 2020, the Abortion Rights Campaign (ARC) conducted research into Irish residents’ experiences of abortion care under the new law, including their experiences with MyOptions.
Methods – Between September 2020 and March 2021, ARC administered an online survey. Qualitative data were coded using NVIVO software and analysed through thematic analysis. Quantitative data were analysed descriptively. This article analyses a subsection of these data to answer the question: What were abortion-seekers’ experiences of using MyOptions?
Results – Many respondents were unaware of MyOptions before becoming pregnant. Some described MyOptions as useful and compassionate. Others noted a lack of clarity from MyOptions about the scope of its service and a lack of information on accessing abortion after 12 weeks. Respondents reported frustration that the service did not arrange appointments, explaining that having to contact general practitioners (GPs) themselves was stressful and time-consuming, as was GPs’ refusal to provide care or refer to a willing provider.
Conclusions – MyOptions primarily benefits abortion-seekers whose pregnancies are under 12 weeks and who are comfortable contacting a GP themselves. The addition of an appointment booking service and guidance on how to access abortion for medical reasons and abortion after 12 weeks could improve the service.
VISUAL: Abortion Rights Campaign, 29 June 2021