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Niall Behan, Chief Executive IFPA
10 June 2020

COVID-19 Impact: What we know so far – Ireland

An interview with Niall Behan, Chief Executive of the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA), on the impact of COVID-19. How badly has Ireland been affected by coronavirus/COVID-19? Like many countries around the world, COVID-19 has badly affected Ireland. The country has been in effective lockdown since March [with some restrictions easing since time of writing, which was 11 May], with schools, colleges, childcare facilities and almost all businesses closed. Non-essential travel is banned, public transport has been reduced and the vast majority of people are now working from home. Frontline workers continue to provide essential services.   At the time of writing, almost 23,000 people in Ireland have tested positive for COVID-19 and 1,458 people have died.   What impact is coronavirus having when it comes to sexual and reproductive health services? The pandemic is having a significant impact on the delivery of sexual and reproductive healthcare. The national cervical screening and breast screening programmes have been paused and the vast majority of public STI testing clinics are closed. Treatment clinics for HIV, STIs and Hepatitis are operating at reduced capacity and many PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis, which aims to prevent HIV transmission) clinics have closed or restricted their hours. PEP (post exposure prophylaxis, which aims to prevent HIV infection) is still accessible, and can be accessed in a number of emergency departments. The provision of long-acting reversible contraception has been reduced due to social distancing requirements. However, pharmacies remain open which means that the emergency contraceptive pill and condoms are accessible and prescriptions for the contraceptive pill, patch and ring can still be fitted. Some sexual health services are also providing condoms by post free of charge.  What impact has there been on abortion services and post abortion care? Prior to the pandemic, the abortion law was interpreted as requiring women to attend for two face-to-face consultations with a medical practitioner in order to access abortion in early pregnancy. Mifespristone was administered in-clinic at the second visit and misoprostol was supplied for home self-administration. The arrival of COVID-19 introduced a significant public health risk into this model of care and the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) and others quickly began advocating for changes to the requirement for multiple in-person visits on public health grounds.  The Irish government recently moved to allow telemedicine for medical abortion. Can you tell us more about that and what that means for IFPA? In April 2020, the health service issued a revised Model of Care for Termination in Early Pregnancy in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency. It provides for remote consultation with a medical practitioner for the purposes of accessing abortion in early pregnancy, with face-to-face consultations only taking place in exceptional circumstances.  This model aims to keep face-to-face visits to the minimum while complying with the law and ensuring patient safety. Most women now have their two medical appointments remotely, only coming to the clinic to collect the medications and information materials. Both abortion medications are now taken at home. For the IFPA, this means we now provide abortion care by telephone consultation. This is a really positive development which recognises that abortion is essential, time-sensitive healthcare and enables our staff to deliver the service in a way that protects their health and the health of clients.  What impact – if any – do you think this will have in Ireland long term? All indications are that the pandemic will have significant health, social and economic consequences for Ireland.   It is unclear what impact the decision to allow abortion care by remote consultation will have in the long term. The revised model of care will only apply for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency. However, we intend to collect data about patient experience of accessing abortion care remotely to inform future service delivery. Are frontline staff still able to go into the community? The IFPA clinics remain open, however we have had to significantly reduce the number of staff on the premises at any one time and the amount of face-to-face consultations we provide in order to comply with social distancing requirements. The majority of our services are now delivered by telephone consultation, but some services have been temporarily suspended. We have also been forced to suspend our sexual and reproductive health outreach with asylum-seeking and refugee women.  GPs and hospitals have also introduced procedures to significantly reduce footfall in their services. Some health outreach continues with vulnerable communities, such as Traveller, Roma and homeless populations, in order to provide COVID-19 testing to these cohorts.    What will you be doing to keep providing services to people in Ireland? Our staff have been working extremely hard to develop additional resources to support people accessing sexual and reproductive healthcare, particularly abortion services, during the pandemic.  From the outset, we have prioritised clear communication with service-users through regular website and social media updates. We recognise that getting healthcare over the phone is new to most people, so we have built in some additional supports and new information materials. Can you tell us about any innovative measures that have been introduced in to provide services in a different way than usual? We have created a dedicated COVID-19 page on our website which is updated regularly. We have also added a translation function so that information can be read in different languages. We have expanded the abortion care section of our website with additional information and women can download our medical abortion leaflets in 8 languages. To support women and girls who are experiencing an unintended pregnancy or a pregnancy that has become a crisis, we have developed a series of YouTube videos. Clients can watch these at a place and time when they won’t be distracted or interrupted. It’s very reassuring for women to be able to can see what’s in the Home Care Pack before they collect it. We’ve also developed a brand new step-by-step guide for the Home Care Pack. It has a check-list, a set of easy to understand steps, a space to write in the dates and times to take the medication. We’ve colour-coded the medications.  And the guide includes contact numbers for the IFPA clinics and the 24 hour HSE My Options helpline. All IFPA clients who need to come to the clinic for any reason receive a letter for police checkpoints to show that they are attending the clinic for an essential medical service (but not specifying which service). What message do you have for people and your staff in Ireland when it comes to sexual and reproductive health services and COVID-19? These are challenging times for everyone and we understand that people seeking sexual and reproductive health services may be experiencing additional stress. We are doing everything we can to make sure that the quality of the care we provide is at the same standard as in normal times and that our clients get all the information and support they need. Our staff remains committed to providing sexual and reproductive healthcare as far as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Young peer educator in Palestine.

In pictures: From humanitarian emergencies to a historic referendum – a decade delivering care

2010 Haiti PROFAMIL, the IPPF Member Association in Haiti, deployed teams to help communities affected by the earthquake that struck in January 2010.During crises we work closely with our clinics on the ground to deliver life-saving care to people in need. Our mobile clinics provide on-the-spot healthcare such as STI and HIV diagnosis and treatment, short and long-acting contraception, and emergency obstetric and neonatal care.©IPPF/Toan Tran/Haiti Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share via WhatsApp Share via Email 2011 Bolivia IPPF’s Member Association in Bolivia, CIES, offers the HPV vaccine in schools, health centres, and mobile clinics to ensure widespread access to this lifesaving prevention measure.By 2011, more than 75,000 girls had received vaccinations.©IPPFWHR/Juan Pablo Richter/Bolivia Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share via WhatsApp Share via Email 2012 Palestine A group of young women attend a theatre session as part of PFPPA’s gender based violence work delivered through a mobile healthcare clinic in a Bedouin village.In 2012, 40% of our sexual and reproductive healthcare was delivered to young people.©IPPF/Graeme Robertson/Palestine Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share via WhatsApp Share via Email 2013 Philippines In response to the devastating aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in 2013, IPPF's humanitarian team worked with our Member Association, the Family Planning Organization of the Philippines (FPOP), supporting relief efforts to provide lifesaving healthcare to affected communities.©IPPF/Suzanne Lee/Philippines Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share via WhatsApp Share via Email 2014 Uganda In 2014, IPPF distributed 187,257,756 condoms globally. Condoms are the only form of contraception that can protect you from HIV and STIs and are 87-98% effective for an external (male) condom and 79-95% effective for an internal (female) condom.Using a condom alongside another form of contraception (for example an IUD or the Pill) is the best way to protect against unintended pregnancy.©IPPFTommy Trenchard/Uganda Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share via WhatsApp Share via Email 2015 Nepal On Saturday 25 April 2015, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake shook Nepal, causing massive devastation and loss of life. It was the worst natural disaster to strike the country for 80 years.The Family Planning Association of Nepal set up a mobile healthcare clinic in Gagarfedi; one of the worse affected villages in the Kathmandu district north of the city delivering vital healthcare to the local community.©IPPF/Amelia Andrews/Nepal Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share via WhatsApp Share via Email 2016 Nigeria IPPF has played a major role in the introduction – and accessibility – of Sayana Press; a three-month, progestin-only injectable contraceptive favoured for its convenience in administration and portability.Emiade Kudirat is a Community Health Extension Worker with the Planned Parenthood Federation of Nigeria (PPFN). Specializing in Sayana Press, she says:"I go from house-to-house to provide health education and introduce family planning services. I do counselling and provision of these services too. The PPFN model can really reduce the mortality rate of women in the community. We're taking the clinic to women at the market, to their homes and to their work."©IPPF/George Osodi/Nigeria Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share via WhatsApp Share via Email 2017 Mozambique Albertina, now retired, worked with HIV patients for Amodefa for 38 years and was their longest serving nurse. “I like helping people, that’s why I do this job.”Albertina headed up Amodefa’s home care programme which provides medical, nutritional and emotional support to HIV positive patients living in the poorest suburbs of Maputo, the capital of Mozambique.©IPPF/Grant Lee Neuenburg/Mozambique Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share via WhatsApp Share via Email 2018 Ireland 2018 brought a legislative victory to repeal the 8th amendment; on 25 May people voted for a more caring and compassionate Ireland, where women can access abortion care in their own country.Áine, activist with IFPA says, “It was exciting to be part of a big campaign. Young people are often seen as politically apathetic, but it’s important my generation are involved in the reproductive rights movement.For me abortion is about motherhood at the end of the day. It’s about allowing us the right to be the best mothers we can be, if and only when we decide it’s right for us to be."©IPPF/Barry Cronin/Ireland Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share via WhatsApp Share via Email 2019 India Pradipta Kumar, 22, a security guard and Pankanjini Behera, 21, are recently married. The young couple have decided not to have children for a couple of years.They attended a clinic set up by the Family Planning Association of India (FPAI) to help those affected by Cyclone Fani for advice on types of contraception available.©IPPF/Kathleen Prior/India Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share via WhatsApp Share via Email

Mural in Belfast ©Rossographer
01 June 2018

Irish "Yes" throws into focus countries that refuse to end forced pregnancy

When the exit polls late on 25 May predicted a massive landslide victory for the Yes campaign to repeal the 8th amendment of the Irish constitution, activists and campaigners barely dared to hope. But when the counting began the following morning, and Yes votes started trickling in from constituencies all over the country, it quickly became clear that a seismic change in public opinion on abortion had taken place. Young and old, female and male, urban and rural – the Irish people had decided that compassion and care must be the values governing women’s reproductive health and rights – replacing the decades-long Roman Catholic stranglehold characterized by coercion and abuse of women. With the 8th amendment now repealed, Ireland’s Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has committed to delivering legislation which legalizes abortion care on a woman’s own indication in the first trimester of pregnancy before the end of this year, bringing it in line with the majority of European countries. Women’s lives will be changed for the better, and as an Irishwoman I have never been so proud of my country. But the Yes vote has repercussions outside of Ireland, bringing into even sharper focus Europe’s outliers – those remaining countries that still refuse to end forced pregnancy, restricting access to safe and legal abortion care to the extent that it is virtually inaccessible to most women. In Northern Ireland, women and girls are denied abortion care even if they’ve been raped, been a victim of incest, or had a diagnosis of fetal abnormality. As the celebrations kicked off in Ireland this weekend, UK campaigners rightly stepped up their calls on the government and the Northern Ireland executive to recognize that this is no longer tenable and follow Ireland’s lead in placing compassion at the heart of women’s health care. In Poland, the legislation on abortion care is among the most restrictive in Europe. The Polish government has been making constant, fanatical efforts to further limit access in order to coerce women into moving through pregnancies against their will. We hope that the Irish example sends a strong signal to the Polish authorities that people’s care and compassion will triumph over absolutism and bullying. Just two weeks ago, Malta was reconfirmed and feted as Europe’s top champion of rights for LGBTI people. And yet it refuses to allow abortion care, even if the life of the pregnant woman is at stake, abandoning couples and families to fend for themselves when faced with a crisis pregnancy. It is hard to imagine a more selective application of compassionate values, and a more incoherent approach to the upholding of human rights. In the light of Ireland’s vote, the Maltese position looks even less credible, its inhumanity starker. And while Italy has required abortion care to be available to all women since it was legalized in 1978, the reality in 2018 is that widespread and growing denial of care by many doctors and other medical professionals (over 90% of gynecologists refuse to provide abortion care in some Italian regions) means that unsafe and illegal abortions are on the rise, with sometimes lethal consequences. This cruel and degrading treatment of the country’s women and girls is perpetrated on spurious grounds of individual conscience – a tactic that we see used systematically in countries around the world that do not believe in free and safe reproductive lives. The Italian government is complicit in its failure to act. These are some of the battles ahead, in a Europe where retrograde conservative forces work with right-wing governments to deny women control over their own bodies. Grassroots campaigners, NGOs and individual citizens will be buoyed by Ireland’s historic shift. There could be no clearer signal that Europeans are aligned in supporting abortion care based on the values of gender equality and solidarity. The EU institutions should be emboldened to take concrete actions to defend reproductive freedom in Europe. In this moment of optimism, we dare to hope that such an unequivocal triumph of compassion over coercion will bring us closer to making abortion care safe, legal and accessible for all women, everywhere. By Caroline Hickson, IPPF EN Regional Director This blog was originally published by Euractiv: Ireland’s Yes vote ushers in a new era for women’s rights in Europe

国民投票の結果を見守る市民

Ireland’s Yes vote is a triumph of compassion over coercion

IPPF is overjoyed at the Irish people’s decision to remove the harmful ‘8th Amendment’ from Ireland’s constitution with today’s referendum result.   IPPF’s Director General, Dr Alvaro Bermejo said: “ We wholeheartedly welcome this vote for change, which makes it possible for the Irish Parliament to legalise abortion care on a woman’s own indication in the first trimester of pregnancy, in line with the many other countries around the world which ensure women can access safe and legal abortion care when they need it.”   Caroline Hickson, IPPF’s European Network Regional Director, said: “As an Irishwoman, I know the 8th Amendment has harmed countless women physically, emotionally and psychologically for more than 30 years. The vote to remove it paves the way for a more compassionate and caring environment for women in Ireland. They will no longer be forced to access abortion outside the state or resort to unsafe and unregulated use of abortion pills obtained online and outside the law. Instead, women and girls who experience crisis pregnancies will be able to make personal, private decisions about their health care with the support of their doctors and loved ones. They will be able to receive proper care, in their country, when they are at their most vulnerable.”   Dr Alvaro Bermejo added: “Ireland’s decision sends a signal around Europe and the world that people’s care and compassion can triumph over absolutism and coercion. We hope that it also gives courage to women and all those who support their fight against reproductive coercion in so many other places, and to all those countries where the Global Gag Rule is having a devastating impact on access to sexual and reproductive health care. For all women everywhere, it’s time to end forced full pregnancy and make abortion care safe, legal and accessible. Today Ireland has shown us that positive change is possible.”  

nurse in IPPF-run clinic.  credits: IPPF/Jane Mingay/Georgia
05 February 2018

Supporting FGM survivors in Ireland

Ireland has taken important steps in recent years in the fight to end female genital mutilation (FGM). At the domestic level, the Criminal Justice (Female Genital Mutilation) Act was introduced in 2012 to prohibit FGM and, as part of its Overseas Development Assistance, Ireland has contributed towards the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on FGM, which is the largest global initiative to accelerate the elimination of FGM. Since 2014, the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) has provided comprehensive medical and psychological care to women and girls in Ireland who have experienced FGM. The FGM Treatment Service is publicly funded which enables the IFPA to provide care to affected women and girls free of charge. Although the practice is mostly concentrated in Africa and the Middle East, the phenomenon of global migration means women and girls affected by FGM live across the globe, including in Western Europe. It is estimated that more than 5,000 women and girls living in Ireland have experienced FGM. IFPA Medical Director Caitriona Henchion says, “FGM is recognised internationally as a violation of the human rights of women and girls. It causes harm and has no health benefits. In fact, it can result in short- and long-term health complications, such as pain, infection, menstrual problems, urinary tract problems and sexual difficulties.” The IFPA engages in outreach activities to promote awareness of the FGM Treatment Service amongst those who have experienced FGM. Dr Henchion explains, “A key challenge for us as a healthcare provider is raising awareness about this free service amongst affected communities. FGM can be difficult for women to talk about – it’s a very stigmatised topic. We want women to know our staff provide completely confidential, non-judgmental care. Our doors are open.” In our outreach work, the IFPA frames FGM as one of a range of sexual and reproductive healthcare issues impacting ethnic minority women and we provide information about cervical and breast screening, contraception, menopause and screening for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) alongside information about the FGM Treatment Service. This is in recognition of the fact that the issue of FGM is part of a wider set of issues in healthcare provision for women from minority ethnic backgrounds, particularly asylum seekers and refugees. The IFPA also educates frontline service providers, such as healthcare professionals, about FGM and its harms. Dr Henchion says, “FGM is not yet fully integrated into medical education in Ireland. As a result, healthcare providers may not understand what FGM is or how many women and girls are affected globally. We want to equip them with the knowledge to recognise FGM and refer women to existing services if needed.” While the provision of financial support for the FGM Treatment Service is an important aspect of efforts to address FGM, the State must take more ownership over the issue in order to effectively combat FGM. Legislation alone is insufficient to ensure the abandonment of the practice. The IFPA believes a government-led interagency committee, with representation from key government departments and other state and non-governmental bodies, is required to comprehensively tackle FGM. Such a committee could take responsibility for the development of a national action plan across the key areas of prevention, protection, provision (for women and girls who have experienced FGM) prosecution and promotion (of efforts to eradicate FGM). 

Irish Family Planning Association

The Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) was founded in 1969. Since then, the organization has been a pioneering force in sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in Ireland, as an educator, a researcher, opinion former and service provider.

The IFPA worked for years for the removal of the constitutional ban on abortion and, since 2019, proudly provides early abortion care among its services. In its early days, when contraception was illegal, the organization opened Ireland’s first family planning clinics. It helped establish sex education programmes in schools and set up Ireland’s first confidential sex helpline for young people.

The organization provides specialist training in contraception for healthcare professionals, and on sexual health for community groups, young people and parents. The IFPA has 2 clinics in Dublin and 10 pregnancy counselling centres nationwide. It operates Ireland’s only community based FGM treatment clinic.

The IFPA works for the fulfilment of the rights to respect for reproductive autonomy and access to sexual and reproductive health and rights, with a particular focus on the SRHR of adolescents, young people and vulnerable or disadvantaged groups. Current priorities include: universal free access to contraception, improved sexuality education within school curricula and the removal of the remaining barriers to access to abortion care.

Niall Behan, Chief Executive IFPA
10 June 2020

COVID-19 Impact: What we know so far – Ireland

An interview with Niall Behan, Chief Executive of the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA), on the impact of COVID-19. How badly has Ireland been affected by coronavirus/COVID-19? Like many countries around the world, COVID-19 has badly affected Ireland. The country has been in effective lockdown since March [with some restrictions easing since time of writing, which was 11 May], with schools, colleges, childcare facilities and almost all businesses closed. Non-essential travel is banned, public transport has been reduced and the vast majority of people are now working from home. Frontline workers continue to provide essential services.   At the time of writing, almost 23,000 people in Ireland have tested positive for COVID-19 and 1,458 people have died.   What impact is coronavirus having when it comes to sexual and reproductive health services? The pandemic is having a significant impact on the delivery of sexual and reproductive healthcare. The national cervical screening and breast screening programmes have been paused and the vast majority of public STI testing clinics are closed. Treatment clinics for HIV, STIs and Hepatitis are operating at reduced capacity and many PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis, which aims to prevent HIV transmission) clinics have closed or restricted their hours. PEP (post exposure prophylaxis, which aims to prevent HIV infection) is still accessible, and can be accessed in a number of emergency departments. The provision of long-acting reversible contraception has been reduced due to social distancing requirements. However, pharmacies remain open which means that the emergency contraceptive pill and condoms are accessible and prescriptions for the contraceptive pill, patch and ring can still be fitted. Some sexual health services are also providing condoms by post free of charge.  What impact has there been on abortion services and post abortion care? Prior to the pandemic, the abortion law was interpreted as requiring women to attend for two face-to-face consultations with a medical practitioner in order to access abortion in early pregnancy. Mifespristone was administered in-clinic at the second visit and misoprostol was supplied for home self-administration. The arrival of COVID-19 introduced a significant public health risk into this model of care and the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) and others quickly began advocating for changes to the requirement for multiple in-person visits on public health grounds.  The Irish government recently moved to allow telemedicine for medical abortion. Can you tell us more about that and what that means for IFPA? In April 2020, the health service issued a revised Model of Care for Termination in Early Pregnancy in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency. It provides for remote consultation with a medical practitioner for the purposes of accessing abortion in early pregnancy, with face-to-face consultations only taking place in exceptional circumstances.  This model aims to keep face-to-face visits to the minimum while complying with the law and ensuring patient safety. Most women now have their two medical appointments remotely, only coming to the clinic to collect the medications and information materials. Both abortion medications are now taken at home. For the IFPA, this means we now provide abortion care by telephone consultation. This is a really positive development which recognises that abortion is essential, time-sensitive healthcare and enables our staff to deliver the service in a way that protects their health and the health of clients.  What impact – if any – do you think this will have in Ireland long term? All indications are that the pandemic will have significant health, social and economic consequences for Ireland.   It is unclear what impact the decision to allow abortion care by remote consultation will have in the long term. The revised model of care will only apply for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency. However, we intend to collect data about patient experience of accessing abortion care remotely to inform future service delivery. Are frontline staff still able to go into the community? The IFPA clinics remain open, however we have had to significantly reduce the number of staff on the premises at any one time and the amount of face-to-face consultations we provide in order to comply with social distancing requirements. The majority of our services are now delivered by telephone consultation, but some services have been temporarily suspended. We have also been forced to suspend our sexual and reproductive health outreach with asylum-seeking and refugee women.  GPs and hospitals have also introduced procedures to significantly reduce footfall in their services. Some health outreach continues with vulnerable communities, such as Traveller, Roma and homeless populations, in order to provide COVID-19 testing to these cohorts.    What will you be doing to keep providing services to people in Ireland? Our staff have been working extremely hard to develop additional resources to support people accessing sexual and reproductive healthcare, particularly abortion services, during the pandemic.  From the outset, we have prioritised clear communication with service-users through regular website and social media updates. We recognise that getting healthcare over the phone is new to most people, so we have built in some additional supports and new information materials. Can you tell us about any innovative measures that have been introduced in to provide services in a different way than usual? We have created a dedicated COVID-19 page on our website which is updated regularly. We have also added a translation function so that information can be read in different languages. We have expanded the abortion care section of our website with additional information and women can download our medical abortion leaflets in 8 languages. To support women and girls who are experiencing an unintended pregnancy or a pregnancy that has become a crisis, we have developed a series of YouTube videos. Clients can watch these at a place and time when they won’t be distracted or interrupted. It’s very reassuring for women to be able to can see what’s in the Home Care Pack before they collect it. We’ve also developed a brand new step-by-step guide for the Home Care Pack. It has a check-list, a set of easy to understand steps, a space to write in the dates and times to take the medication. We’ve colour-coded the medications.  And the guide includes contact numbers for the IFPA clinics and the 24 hour HSE My Options helpline. All IFPA clients who need to come to the clinic for any reason receive a letter for police checkpoints to show that they are attending the clinic for an essential medical service (but not specifying which service). What message do you have for people and your staff in Ireland when it comes to sexual and reproductive health services and COVID-19? These are challenging times for everyone and we understand that people seeking sexual and reproductive health services may be experiencing additional stress. We are doing everything we can to make sure that the quality of the care we provide is at the same standard as in normal times and that our clients get all the information and support they need. Our staff remains committed to providing sexual and reproductive healthcare as far as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Young peer educator in Palestine.

In pictures: From humanitarian emergencies to a historic referendum – a decade delivering care

2010 Haiti PROFAMIL, the IPPF Member Association in Haiti, deployed teams to help communities affected by the earthquake that struck in January 2010.During crises we work closely with our clinics on the ground to deliver life-saving care to people in need. Our mobile clinics provide on-the-spot healthcare such as STI and HIV diagnosis and treatment, short and long-acting contraception, and emergency obstetric and neonatal care.©IPPF/Toan Tran/Haiti Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share via WhatsApp Share via Email 2011 Bolivia IPPF’s Member Association in Bolivia, CIES, offers the HPV vaccine in schools, health centres, and mobile clinics to ensure widespread access to this lifesaving prevention measure.By 2011, more than 75,000 girls had received vaccinations.©IPPFWHR/Juan Pablo Richter/Bolivia Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share via WhatsApp Share via Email 2012 Palestine A group of young women attend a theatre session as part of PFPPA’s gender based violence work delivered through a mobile healthcare clinic in a Bedouin village.In 2012, 40% of our sexual and reproductive healthcare was delivered to young people.©IPPF/Graeme Robertson/Palestine Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share via WhatsApp Share via Email 2013 Philippines In response to the devastating aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in 2013, IPPF's humanitarian team worked with our Member Association, the Family Planning Organization of the Philippines (FPOP), supporting relief efforts to provide lifesaving healthcare to affected communities.©IPPF/Suzanne Lee/Philippines Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share via WhatsApp Share via Email 2014 Uganda In 2014, IPPF distributed 187,257,756 condoms globally. Condoms are the only form of contraception that can protect you from HIV and STIs and are 87-98% effective for an external (male) condom and 79-95% effective for an internal (female) condom.Using a condom alongside another form of contraception (for example an IUD or the Pill) is the best way to protect against unintended pregnancy.©IPPFTommy Trenchard/Uganda Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share via WhatsApp Share via Email 2015 Nepal On Saturday 25 April 2015, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake shook Nepal, causing massive devastation and loss of life. It was the worst natural disaster to strike the country for 80 years.The Family Planning Association of Nepal set up a mobile healthcare clinic in Gagarfedi; one of the worse affected villages in the Kathmandu district north of the city delivering vital healthcare to the local community.©IPPF/Amelia Andrews/Nepal Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share via WhatsApp Share via Email 2016 Nigeria IPPF has played a major role in the introduction – and accessibility – of Sayana Press; a three-month, progestin-only injectable contraceptive favoured for its convenience in administration and portability.Emiade Kudirat is a Community Health Extension Worker with the Planned Parenthood Federation of Nigeria (PPFN). Specializing in Sayana Press, she says:"I go from house-to-house to provide health education and introduce family planning services. I do counselling and provision of these services too. The PPFN model can really reduce the mortality rate of women in the community. We're taking the clinic to women at the market, to their homes and to their work."©IPPF/George Osodi/Nigeria Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share via WhatsApp Share via Email 2017 Mozambique Albertina, now retired, worked with HIV patients for Amodefa for 38 years and was their longest serving nurse. “I like helping people, that’s why I do this job.”Albertina headed up Amodefa’s home care programme which provides medical, nutritional and emotional support to HIV positive patients living in the poorest suburbs of Maputo, the capital of Mozambique.©IPPF/Grant Lee Neuenburg/Mozambique Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share via WhatsApp Share via Email 2018 Ireland 2018 brought a legislative victory to repeal the 8th amendment; on 25 May people voted for a more caring and compassionate Ireland, where women can access abortion care in their own country.Áine, activist with IFPA says, “It was exciting to be part of a big campaign. Young people are often seen as politically apathetic, but it’s important my generation are involved in the reproductive rights movement.For me abortion is about motherhood at the end of the day. It’s about allowing us the right to be the best mothers we can be, if and only when we decide it’s right for us to be."©IPPF/Barry Cronin/Ireland Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share via WhatsApp Share via Email 2019 India Pradipta Kumar, 22, a security guard and Pankanjini Behera, 21, are recently married. The young couple have decided not to have children for a couple of years.They attended a clinic set up by the Family Planning Association of India (FPAI) to help those affected by Cyclone Fani for advice on types of contraception available.©IPPF/Kathleen Prior/India Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share via WhatsApp Share via Email

Mural in Belfast ©Rossographer
01 June 2018

Irish "Yes" throws into focus countries that refuse to end forced pregnancy

When the exit polls late on 25 May predicted a massive landslide victory for the Yes campaign to repeal the 8th amendment of the Irish constitution, activists and campaigners barely dared to hope. But when the counting began the following morning, and Yes votes started trickling in from constituencies all over the country, it quickly became clear that a seismic change in public opinion on abortion had taken place. Young and old, female and male, urban and rural – the Irish people had decided that compassion and care must be the values governing women’s reproductive health and rights – replacing the decades-long Roman Catholic stranglehold characterized by coercion and abuse of women. With the 8th amendment now repealed, Ireland’s Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has committed to delivering legislation which legalizes abortion care on a woman’s own indication in the first trimester of pregnancy before the end of this year, bringing it in line with the majority of European countries. Women’s lives will be changed for the better, and as an Irishwoman I have never been so proud of my country. But the Yes vote has repercussions outside of Ireland, bringing into even sharper focus Europe’s outliers – those remaining countries that still refuse to end forced pregnancy, restricting access to safe and legal abortion care to the extent that it is virtually inaccessible to most women. In Northern Ireland, women and girls are denied abortion care even if they’ve been raped, been a victim of incest, or had a diagnosis of fetal abnormality. As the celebrations kicked off in Ireland this weekend, UK campaigners rightly stepped up their calls on the government and the Northern Ireland executive to recognize that this is no longer tenable and follow Ireland’s lead in placing compassion at the heart of women’s health care. In Poland, the legislation on abortion care is among the most restrictive in Europe. The Polish government has been making constant, fanatical efforts to further limit access in order to coerce women into moving through pregnancies against their will. We hope that the Irish example sends a strong signal to the Polish authorities that people’s care and compassion will triumph over absolutism and bullying. Just two weeks ago, Malta was reconfirmed and feted as Europe’s top champion of rights for LGBTI people. And yet it refuses to allow abortion care, even if the life of the pregnant woman is at stake, abandoning couples and families to fend for themselves when faced with a crisis pregnancy. It is hard to imagine a more selective application of compassionate values, and a more incoherent approach to the upholding of human rights. In the light of Ireland’s vote, the Maltese position looks even less credible, its inhumanity starker. And while Italy has required abortion care to be available to all women since it was legalized in 1978, the reality in 2018 is that widespread and growing denial of care by many doctors and other medical professionals (over 90% of gynecologists refuse to provide abortion care in some Italian regions) means that unsafe and illegal abortions are on the rise, with sometimes lethal consequences. This cruel and degrading treatment of the country’s women and girls is perpetrated on spurious grounds of individual conscience – a tactic that we see used systematically in countries around the world that do not believe in free and safe reproductive lives. The Italian government is complicit in its failure to act. These are some of the battles ahead, in a Europe where retrograde conservative forces work with right-wing governments to deny women control over their own bodies. Grassroots campaigners, NGOs and individual citizens will be buoyed by Ireland’s historic shift. There could be no clearer signal that Europeans are aligned in supporting abortion care based on the values of gender equality and solidarity. The EU institutions should be emboldened to take concrete actions to defend reproductive freedom in Europe. In this moment of optimism, we dare to hope that such an unequivocal triumph of compassion over coercion will bring us closer to making abortion care safe, legal and accessible for all women, everywhere. By Caroline Hickson, IPPF EN Regional Director This blog was originally published by Euractiv: Ireland’s Yes vote ushers in a new era for women’s rights in Europe

国民投票の結果を見守る市民

Ireland’s Yes vote is a triumph of compassion over coercion

IPPF is overjoyed at the Irish people’s decision to remove the harmful ‘8th Amendment’ from Ireland’s constitution with today’s referendum result.   IPPF’s Director General, Dr Alvaro Bermejo said: “ We wholeheartedly welcome this vote for change, which makes it possible for the Irish Parliament to legalise abortion care on a woman’s own indication in the first trimester of pregnancy, in line with the many other countries around the world which ensure women can access safe and legal abortion care when they need it.”   Caroline Hickson, IPPF’s European Network Regional Director, said: “As an Irishwoman, I know the 8th Amendment has harmed countless women physically, emotionally and psychologically for more than 30 years. The vote to remove it paves the way for a more compassionate and caring environment for women in Ireland. They will no longer be forced to access abortion outside the state or resort to unsafe and unregulated use of abortion pills obtained online and outside the law. Instead, women and girls who experience crisis pregnancies will be able to make personal, private decisions about their health care with the support of their doctors and loved ones. They will be able to receive proper care, in their country, when they are at their most vulnerable.”   Dr Alvaro Bermejo added: “Ireland’s decision sends a signal around Europe and the world that people’s care and compassion can triumph over absolutism and coercion. We hope that it also gives courage to women and all those who support their fight against reproductive coercion in so many other places, and to all those countries where the Global Gag Rule is having a devastating impact on access to sexual and reproductive health care. For all women everywhere, it’s time to end forced full pregnancy and make abortion care safe, legal and accessible. Today Ireland has shown us that positive change is possible.”  

nurse in IPPF-run clinic.  credits: IPPF/Jane Mingay/Georgia
05 February 2018

Supporting FGM survivors in Ireland

Ireland has taken important steps in recent years in the fight to end female genital mutilation (FGM). At the domestic level, the Criminal Justice (Female Genital Mutilation) Act was introduced in 2012 to prohibit FGM and, as part of its Overseas Development Assistance, Ireland has contributed towards the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on FGM, which is the largest global initiative to accelerate the elimination of FGM. Since 2014, the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) has provided comprehensive medical and psychological care to women and girls in Ireland who have experienced FGM. The FGM Treatment Service is publicly funded which enables the IFPA to provide care to affected women and girls free of charge. Although the practice is mostly concentrated in Africa and the Middle East, the phenomenon of global migration means women and girls affected by FGM live across the globe, including in Western Europe. It is estimated that more than 5,000 women and girls living in Ireland have experienced FGM. IFPA Medical Director Caitriona Henchion says, “FGM is recognised internationally as a violation of the human rights of women and girls. It causes harm and has no health benefits. In fact, it can result in short- and long-term health complications, such as pain, infection, menstrual problems, urinary tract problems and sexual difficulties.” The IFPA engages in outreach activities to promote awareness of the FGM Treatment Service amongst those who have experienced FGM. Dr Henchion explains, “A key challenge for us as a healthcare provider is raising awareness about this free service amongst affected communities. FGM can be difficult for women to talk about – it’s a very stigmatised topic. We want women to know our staff provide completely confidential, non-judgmental care. Our doors are open.” In our outreach work, the IFPA frames FGM as one of a range of sexual and reproductive healthcare issues impacting ethnic minority women and we provide information about cervical and breast screening, contraception, menopause and screening for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) alongside information about the FGM Treatment Service. This is in recognition of the fact that the issue of FGM is part of a wider set of issues in healthcare provision for women from minority ethnic backgrounds, particularly asylum seekers and refugees. The IFPA also educates frontline service providers, such as healthcare professionals, about FGM and its harms. Dr Henchion says, “FGM is not yet fully integrated into medical education in Ireland. As a result, healthcare providers may not understand what FGM is or how many women and girls are affected globally. We want to equip them with the knowledge to recognise FGM and refer women to existing services if needed.” While the provision of financial support for the FGM Treatment Service is an important aspect of efforts to address FGM, the State must take more ownership over the issue in order to effectively combat FGM. Legislation alone is insufficient to ensure the abandonment of the practice. The IFPA believes a government-led interagency committee, with representation from key government departments and other state and non-governmental bodies, is required to comprehensively tackle FGM. Such a committee could take responsibility for the development of a national action plan across the key areas of prevention, protection, provision (for women and girls who have experienced FGM) prosecution and promotion (of efforts to eradicate FGM). 

Irish Family Planning Association

The Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) was founded in 1969. Since then, the organization has been a pioneering force in sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in Ireland, as an educator, a researcher, opinion former and service provider.

The IFPA worked for years for the removal of the constitutional ban on abortion and, since 2019, proudly provides early abortion care among its services. In its early days, when contraception was illegal, the organization opened Ireland’s first family planning clinics. It helped establish sex education programmes in schools and set up Ireland’s first confidential sex helpline for young people.

The organization provides specialist training in contraception for healthcare professionals, and on sexual health for community groups, young people and parents. The IFPA has 2 clinics in Dublin and 10 pregnancy counselling centres nationwide. It operates Ireland’s only community based FGM treatment clinic.

The IFPA works for the fulfilment of the rights to respect for reproductive autonomy and access to sexual and reproductive health and rights, with a particular focus on the SRHR of adolescents, young people and vulnerable or disadvantaged groups. Current priorities include: universal free access to contraception, improved sexuality education within school curricula and the removal of the remaining barriers to access to abortion care.