By Jack Wrixon, Sexpress Editor
On the 25th of May 2018, the people of Ireland voted with a 66% majority to repeal the Eighth Amendment of the Irish Constitution. This amendment saw the legalisation of abortions across the country, and put an end to the decades of neglect and suffering faced by the citizens of Ireland who previously had to seek help abroad or under dangerous circumstances. While this amendment was a massive step forward in a country that has a history of both ignoring and exporting its problems, there are still many problems surrounding the years of agony that were faced. No matter what the circumstances are, nobody should be forced to have an abortion or judged for their choices regarding what the situation is. Support, not judgement should be offered as this experience can be quite a personal and often an upsetting one.
- Making a decision to have an abortion
Coming to a decision when dealing with an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy is not an easy one, but thankfully there are support systems available for those looking to explore their options of keeping the pregnancy or seeking termination. The HSE has an unbiased freephone line that offers both medical advice and counselling services and is available in an online WebChat format. The HSE also offers the option of having a translator present for someone who cannot speak English, as well as an option to use the service through Irish Sign Language (ISL). Regardless of your choice, this service offers support if you choose to keep the pregnancy or terminate, and should it be necessary there is also support provided for partners of people in this situation. The My Options phone number will be included at the end of this article, alongside other resources for those who are looking into these options and services but if you would like to know more, myoptions.ie is also available.
Another way to explore your options is to visit a GP or family planning clinic. Very often, they will also be providing the services for those who need it, but it takes a bit more time before any actual process is performed. Similar to the phone line, your doctor will discuss the options available to you in detail and will be able to refer you to the appropriate clinic if they themselves do not provide the service. Doctors and Physicians are bound to confidentiality, so – as long as you are over the age of 18 – what is discussed with them stays with them. Your doctor should provide unbiased services and information, so you should not feel like you are being influenced or shamed for your decision. Sometimes, the best option is to find another doctor. This may not always be an easy process, but given the time sensitive nature of the situation it may very well be essential.
Something important to remember is that the earlier an abortion is, the safer and easier it is on you and your body. Abortions in Ireland can be freely carried out until 12 weeks, or 84 days since your last period. After the twelve weeks, abortions are only carried out in exceptional circumstances, such as when the continuation of the pregnancy puts your health and your life at risk, or there are developmental problems with the fetus.
- Where can I go to have an abortion?
In Cork, the CUMH (Cork University Maternity Hospital) in Wilton is where abortions take place, but many other hospitals and clinics around the country also provide these services, namely the University Maternity Hospital Limerick, the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin 2 and University Hospital Galway. This is not a complete list of where these services are available and many other hospitals around the country offer legitimate and standard options and practices surrounding the procedure. With this in mind, it is important to verify the route you decide to take regarding having an abortion and to never seek aid from unlicensed or unregulated sources. Doing this puts you and your health at risk and can often have many serious consequences immediately after and down the line.
- Having an abortion.
If you decide to terminate the pregnancy, there are a few steps to take before the procedure itself. The first step is to find out how far along you are, as the type of procedure can vary depending on the developmental stage of the fetus. Generally, abortions are performed through a minor surgery or by ingesting a medication prescribed by your doctor or GP. But before any of this there is a three-day waiting period following the initial pre-abortion appointment. This is done in order to give you time to decide if the procedure is what you want, and so your doctor can certify that you are indeed within the time limit to have an abortion. This can often take some time, which is why once again it is important to seek help as early as possible. While there are some hoops to jump through, abortions and abortive services in Ireland are free of charge, but there may be some general costs associated with visiting a clinic or GP for the initial appointment.
There are two ways the procedure can be carried out. The first one is by taking two different tablets, Mifepristone and Misoprostol. Both of these tablets are prescribed by a doctor and will impact how your body produces pregnancy hormones for the pregnancy in question, ultimately stopping it. The tablets are taken at different stages, and both often have side effects such as cramping, bleeding and nausea. Following this process, your doctor will proceed with aftercare once the abortion is successful. This process has a 98% success rate, and if you do avail of this procedure your doctor will inform you in more detail of the intricacies of what will happen.
The second way an abortion can be carried out is by having a minor day procedure in a hospital. The procedure for a surgical abortion in Ireland is called a Vaccum Aspiration, and following anesthesia and the insertion of a speculum, the pregnancy is suctioned out. You will need to spend a few hours in the hospital after the surgery, and the hospital will provide both aftercare and advice on how to take care of yourself once you are released. It is also advised that you have a friend or family member collect you from the hospital, as depending on the type of anesthesia you have undergone, you may not be able to safely get yourself home.
Obviously, each type of procedure has its own risks associated with it, so it is important to know what may happen in rare cases before you go ahead with the procedure. Seeking an abortion through your doctor or GP, however, is always safer than looking for options online or in other places. Without proper regulation, abortions provided in unusual circumstances (for example, by purchasing the two pills mentioned earlier through online means) have much higher risks than can be accounted for. Please, please choose the safer option if you find yourself in this situation, as the risks of something happening are much lower, and they have much higher successful termination rates.
After the treatment, there is the option to have a post-abortion follow up with the doctor who referred you or with your GP. While this is optional it is advised that everyone who has a termination, avail of it in order to make sure you and your body are back to business as usual. The resources mentioned earlier (myoptions.ie for instance) also offer counselling and help services following the procedure, so if you would like to talk to someone about the termination, or have any questions, they are free to contact, and a list of resources will be provided at the end of this article.
It is important to remember that the choice to have an abortion is nobody’s but your own. Do not let anyone, family member or friend, influence your decision. Even if you decide to keep the pregnancy, it is ultimately down to you. This, however, does not mean that you are alone. Many, many people go through this process and so many of them are willing to talk and share their stories and experiences. It is also important to know that no matter what company you keep, someone out there will support you in your decision. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to reach out to me via email at email@example.com and I’ll do my best to help you.
MyOptions freephone: 1800 828 010
Irish Family Planning Association: 1850 49 50 51
Sexual Violence Center Cork: 1800 496 496