Crisis pregnancy counselling service is criticised over its opening hours
Counselling services for women in crisis pregnancy - which are aimed at reducing the abortion rate - are criticised for being too limited in their opening hours, despite getting €2.6m in State funding.
A review of the service, commissioned by the HSE, said the services were mainly available weekdays during office hours and not at weekends.
It suggests that this face-to-face counselling should be supplemented by a national phoneline where trained counsellors would give information on all options open to a woman.
There are counselling centres in 61 locations around the country, but the service has seen a fall-off in attendance by women in crisis pregnancy in recent years.
The services are allowed to provide non-directive counselling. But they cannot make a referral to an abortion clinic if a woman chooses that option, although she receives the names and addresses of clinics.
There were 4,662 women in crisis pregnancy availing of counselling in 2010, but this dropped to 2,570 in 2016.
The review also highlighted that around half the State funding goes to two organisations that do not provide information on abortion.
These include Cura, which is run by the Catholic Bishop's Conference, and Anew.
The review pointed out that it is not clear from the Cura website that it has religious links.
It calls for all counselling services to be clear about their religious ethos when advertising.
Cura also relies on unpaid volunteers to provide counselling and, while it provides training, the use of non-professional counsellors should be looked at, said the report.
Meanwhile, the Crisis Pregnancy Agency said the reasons more women in Ireland may be accessing abortion pills online are cost and access. For women who have made the decision to terminate a pregnancy, the cost associated with travelling from Ireland to another country for a medically supervised termination is high, it said.
Research finds that higher-earning women are more likely to travel to other countries for abortions over their lower-earning counterparts.
In 2016, 3,265 women gave Irish addresses at UK abortion services, representing a rate of 3.2 per 1,000 women. In 2001 the number was 6,673 abortions - a rate of 7.5 per 1,000 women.