Monday 20 October 2014

Major opinion shift over women's right to choose

Eilish O'ReganHealth Correspondent

Published 21/09/2004 | 00:11

THERE has been a significant switch of opinion in favour of allowing women the right to choose abortion, a new survey has revealed.

THERE has been a significant switch of opinion in favour of allowing women the right to choose abortion.

A detailed new survey of people under the age of 45 reveals that more than half of them (51pc) now favour allowing the right to choose abortion in all circumstances.

A further 39pc say abortion should be available in limited circumstances - such as when the woman's life or health is in danger - making a total of 90pc who favour abortion in some circumstances.

The views represent a considerable shift in attitudes towards abortion since the referendum of 1986.

After that vote, a survey among people under the age of 65 found that 38pc believed abortion was not permissible in any circumstances, while 58pc said that it should be allowed under certain limited conditions.

The latest report, compiled by researchers at the Royal College of Surgeons for the Crisis Pregnancy Agency, shows that only 8pc believe abortion should not be permitted in any circumstances.

Around 12pc say that a woman should be able to choose abortion if she is not married and 9pc say it is acceptable for a couple who simply cannot afford another child.

"The present study was not in a position to identify factors what may have contributed to these attitude changes," says the report of the Crisis Pregnancy Agency.

"Media attention and public debate concerning some high-profile abortion court cases and an abortion referendum in 2002 are possible contributors to a change in attitude."

The survey found that eight in 10 believe that in today's society it is acceptable for a woman to rear a child as a lone parent, without a stable relationship with the father.

More than half of respondents agreed that children of lone parents did just as well as children of two-parent families, with 26pc disagreeing.

A total of 61pc believed there were sufficient supports to help a woman to have a child on her own, and 20pc believed adoption was a positive experience for the mother.

The report found that younger people aged 18-25 years were more likely to describe a pregnancy as a 'crisis pregnancy', and that one in four of these would result in abortion.

Those with lower educational status were less likely to choose abortion in a crisis pregnancy.

It said the proportion of crisis pregnancies resulting in abortion over the past three decades had increased from 3pc of crisis pregnancies 21-30 years ago, to 20pc of crisis pregnancies in the past 10 years.

It also showed that a minority of those facing a crisis pregnancy availed of targeted services. More than a quarter said that counselling would have helped them at the time.

"Clearly wider knowledge of an availability of such services is required to meet the unmet needs of women during and after a crisis pregnancy," it recommended.

The report called for more health promotion strategies to reduce incidences of unprotected sex and also stressed the need for particular groups to be targeted, according to gender, age, educational level and social class.

Commenting on the findings, Karen Kiernan, director of the organisation One Family (previously Cherish), said it had been consistently shown that the law in relation to reproductive issues, and specifically abortion care, was very much out of step with the reality of people's lives and views in Ireland.

"It is high time for the Government to grasp the nettle of abortion and provide a caring and realistic solution to an Irish problem," she said.

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