Review of the operation of the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018

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The review of the operation of the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018, which comprises two phases, commenced last year, as was required by law.

During the first phase of the review, information and evidence on the effectiveness and operation of the Act will be collected from women who use the service, health professionals that provide the service and the public. The first phase commenced last December and will continue until April 1..

The second phase of the review will be led by the independent Chair, Ms. Marie O’Shea who will assess the extent to which the objectives of the Act have been achieved, analysing in that regard the findings of the three strands of information, on the effectiveness and operation of the Act.

 Under section 7 of the Act, Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018, a review of its operation had to be initiated within three years of its commencement, i.e., before January 2022.

 The review clause was included in the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018 in order to facilitate monitoring of the impact, operation, and effectiveness of the legislation in practice, as well as of the delivery of services in the area.

The 2018 Act permits terminations to be carried out in cases where there is a risk to the life, or of serious harm to the health, of the pregnant woman, including in an emergency; where there is a condition present which is likely to lead to the death of the foetus either before or within 28 days of birth; and without restriction up to 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Commenting on the review, the Health Minister, Stephen Donnelly said, “Independent research commissioned to inform the service user and service provider strands will form key elements of the review. The findings of the research, as well as the results of the public consultation, will all be taken into account by the Chair in assessing the extent to which the objectives of the Act have been achieved. The Chair will also draw on the findings of other relevant peer-reviewed research and consult further with stakeholders as necessary.”

Reminding the public about the consultation, the Minister said: “I would encourage everyone who would like to express their views on the Act to participate in the public consultation. It provides an opportunity for members of the public, organisations, stakeholders, advocacy groups working in the area and all other interested parties to inform the review of the operation of the legislation. Separate in-depth qualitative research will consider the operation of the Act specifically from the service user and service provider perspectives, but service users and service providers are also most welcome to contribute their views through this public consultation process.”

Research to inform the service user strand is being carried out by Dr Catherine Conlon, Associate Professor, Trinity College, who is progressing a large qualitative study to analyse unplanned pregnancy and abortion care. The study, was commissioned by the HSE’s Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme, will generate an in-depth understanding of the experiences of women who have accessed abortion care services since the commencement of the Act.

Independent research is also being commissioned on service providers’ views on the operation of the legislation. The tender process for the research is in train, with a request for tenders published on the Government eTenders website in December.

The Chair will collate the findings of the three strands of the review and produce a final report, providing conclusions and any necessary recommendations. 

A final report on the findings of the independent review will be submitted to the Minister for Health for consideration.