Author relied on data from campaigning groups rather than official HSE figures
A significant flaw has been identified in the research used in the review to justify the recommendation to remove the three-day waiting period for reflection in the abortion legislation.
The author cited a 2021 study from the START Doctors group which found that of a small sample of 475 women, only 11 (2%) did not return for a second consultation.* However, the author failed to engage with the widely publicised official figures from the Health Service Executive (HSE) between 2019 and 2021 which gave a much more definitive and clearer picture of the numbers of women who went for abortion consultations and subsequently did not have an abortion. The official figures from the HSE show that of the approximately 23,000 women who made an initial abortion appointment, 3,951 did not return for the second and final appointment after the three-day wait.** This represents 17% of women who made a first consultation and didn’t return to have the abortion compared to the 2% figure cited in the review report.
Commenting on this major flaw in the report, Pro Life Campaign spokesperson Eilís Mulroy said:
“It’s absolutely incredible that the report could recommend such a drastic change as the removal of the three-day reflection period considering the basis for this proposal is partly based on an outlier study of a small sample of women, yet it ignores the overall national evidence made publicly available by the HSE. This data tells us that in the period 2019-2021, there were 3,951 women who initially made an abortion appointment but did not proceed to the second appointment following the end of the three-day wait. The three-day reflection period is undoubtedly a major (but not the sole) factor in producing this outcome.
“Inexplicably, the author of this much-vaunted ‘independent’ report ignored the official national statistics from the HSE, but instead cited a study based on data collected by the pro-abortion campaigning group START. This study only collected data from 475 women in a narrow six-month window in 2019. Its findings are profoundly out of step with the overall national statistics which showed that 17% of women in 2019-2021 who initially made an abortion appointment did not proceed with an abortion.
“This major flaw in the report undermines the credibility of its recommendation to remove the three-day waiting period and further casts a shadow over the entire report’s trustworthiness. Elsewhere, its author underestimated the scale of the abortion rate in Ireland from 2019-2022 by nearly 40%. These fundamental errors raise grave concerns about whether the document was even subjected to normal academic scrutiny.”
* P. Horgan, et. al, ‘Termination of pregnancy services in Irish general practice from January 2019 to June 2019’, Contraception, 2021 Nov;104(5):502-505.
** Data revealed in HSE replies to parliamentary questions. PQ Ref(s): 22277/20; 44969/21; 48352/22.