Almost half of all voters (48 per cent) say they are happy with the current level of access to abortion, the latest Irish Times/Ipsos opinion poll has found.
Just a quarter (25 per cent) of respondents to the poll said they wanted easier access to abortion, while 6 per cent said they wanted access to be made more difficult.
Ten per cent of respondents said abortion should not be available in Ireland at all. A further 10 per cent expressed no opinion.
The findings come after the US supreme court withdrew the 50-year-old constitutional protection for the right to abortion in the United States and as the Government here prepares to complete a review into the operation of Ireland’s abortion legislation.
Respondents to the poll were reminded that abortion is permitted “up to 12 weeks and after 12 weeks in the cases of a threat to the life or health of the mother, or fatal foetal abnormalities”.
They were asked: “Would you like easier access to abortion, more restrictive access, are you happy with the current level of access, or do you feel that abortion should not be available in Ireland at all?”
By far the most popular option was the current level of access, with 48 per cent backing this option.
Women are more likely than men to say they are happy with the current situation, with 51 per cent choosing this option, against 45 per cent of men.
However, women were also more likely to say they want easier access to abortion – 26 per cent, against 23 per cent of men.
Twenty-five per cent of all voters say there should be easier access to abortion. Younger voters, wealthier voters and those in Dublin are more likely to back wider access, with 35 per cent of those under 35 favouring this option.
Just 6 per cent of respondents said access to abortion should be more restricted, though a further 10 per cent said they believe abortion should not be available at all. Older voters, farmers and those who are least well off are most likely to favour a complete ban. Among the over-65s, 18 per cent say abortion should not be available at all, and a further 10 per cent say it should be more difficult to access.
The poll was conducted among 1,200 adults at 120 sampling points across all constituencies between July 10th and 12th. Respondents were interviewed at their own homes. The accuracy is estimated at plus or minus 2.8 per cent.
A review into Ireland’s abortion legislation is expected to be completed this autumn. The Termination of Pregnancy Act, passed by the Oireachtas after the 2018 referendum repealed the constitutional ban on abortion, provides for a review of the legislation three years after its implementation. The Government announced the review at the end of last year, and expects all strands of the process to be completed by the autumn. The review is being headed by barrister Marie O’Shea.
There have been calls from some politicians and pro-choice campaigners to scrap the three-day wait that a woman must complete before getting access to abortion medication, though anti-abortion campaigners – who recently gathered for a large demonstration in Dublin – would oppose any such move.
Earlier this week, a Health Service Executive report said abortion legislation in Ireland “falls short” of women’s needs, creating anguish and shame, while causing a “chilling” effect on clinicians. The Unplanned Pregnancy and Abortion Care (UnPAC) study, conducted for the HSE by Trinity College Dublin, found that the existing legislation is “problematic” for women seeking abortions at all stages of pregnancy but particularly difficult for those facing diagnoses of fatal foetal anomalies.
Pro-choice campaigners have argued that despite the legalisation of abortion, the service is not available in parts of the country due to a shortage of GPs who are willing to provide abortions, while several public hospitals do not provide the service either.
Figures published last week showed that the number of abortions reported to the Department of Health last year fell to 4,577, some 2,000 fewer than in 2020, though some sources questioned the accuracy of reporting during the pandemic.
In addition, some women continue to travel to the UK to avail of abortion services. Last month the Irish Family Planning Association, which campaigns for greater access to abortion, said more than 200 women had travelled to England for an abortion last year.