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Two-thirds want abortion legalised

Two-thirds of Irish adults want abortion legalised and 81pc of men believe the morning after pill should be freely available, a new poll shows.

Almost one in four Irish women has had an unplanned pregnancy and 10pc of 18-34 year olds have been in a relationship where the woman had an abortion, the survey said.

An overwhelming majority want more information on abortion services and one in four women has taken the morning-after pill three times.

The latest Red C/Irish Examiner national survey also found that men may not be told about unplanned pregnancies.

While one in four women had such a pregnancy, less than one in seven men said they had been in a relationship where such a pregnancy occurred.

In the case of the morning-after pill the survey found it is used by 44pc of the population. Eight in 10 men and three in four women believe it should be available over the counter without a prescription.

The Irish Family Planning Agency says the cost of accessing the morning-after pill has been an increasing cause of complaint.

CEO Niall Behan explained that the emergency contraceptive pill itself is only a few euro but visits to a GP or GP emergency services can cost up to €70. Dr Behan says they have also seen a drop in the numbers looking for long-term contraception because of the costs.

Arguments

GPs opposed a change in licensing that would make the morning-after pill available through pharmacies.

Dr Mel Bates, of the Irish College of General Practitioners can see both sides of the arguments but defends the decision of the Irish Medicines Board to keep the pill on prescription.

"The women we worry about are those who take the morning after pill too much, in other words those who use it as a form of contraception."

Where a woman comes to the doctor looking for this pill, it gives the GP an opportunity to address the issue of a woman's broader sexual health, he adds.

Dublin Wellwoman Centre medical director Dr Shirley McQuade has noticed that men have become more openly supportive of their partners with an unplanned pregnancy and there has been a rise in the number of men looking for vasectomies.

csheehy@herald.ie