Cork clinic records 50% increase in women seeking counselling after pregnancy termination
Doctor says increased numbers reflect changing attitudes in Irish society
Women seeking support after terminating a pregnancy increased significantly in Cork last year with the number of counselling sessions provided by a sexual health clinic in the city increasing by 50 per cent year on year, a new report says.
According to the 2019 annual report from the Cork Sexual Health Centre, it provided some 236 counselling sessions in 2019 to women who had terminations of pregnancy - a 50per cent increase on the 2018 figure when it provided 157 counselling sessions.
Cork Sexual Health Centre executive director Dr Martin Davoren said he felt the increase reflected changing attitudes in Irish society towards terminations of pregnancy, particularly in the wake of the 2018 referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution.
“When we had the referendum, I think it gave people the opportunity to reflect on their own lives, in particular individuals who may have had a termination historically but felt they didn’t have the space to discuss that or the space to access the supports previously.
“I think the figures may reflect such individuals coming forward now and wanting to talk about something, which for a long time in Irish society, people didn’t speak about in an open manner,” said Dr Davoren, adding that those seeking counselling spanned all ages.
The centre’s chairman Ciaran Lynch said the centre, which is based on Peter’s Street in Cork near the Mercy University Hospital, saw a growing demand for all of its services throughout 2019.
“In 2019, we saw a rise in the number of people engaging with services for sexual health, post-termination, crisis pregnancy, HIV, sexuality and relationship advice. This is a clear indicator of the community’s need for high quality, professional and inclusive services.”
Dr Davoren said the centre introduced a number of new initiatives in 2019, including a one-to-one mentoring service for people who are living with HIV which assists them on practical issues such as employment, adherence to medication and asylum applications.
The Cork Sexual Health Centre provided 120 support sessions to people living with HIV in 2019 while it also conducted over 700 free rapid HIV tests where people can get results within one minute of a finger prick test similar that used to test for diabetes, he said.
The centre has also introduced a peer-led LGBTQIA+ sexual health advisory service created with a view to creating a safe space for members of the community and their loved ones and some 67 support sessions were delivered to members of that community in 2019.
Dr Davoren said the centre also reported a notable increase in the numbers requesting information about sexually transmitted diseases, which rose from 2,800 in 2018 to over 4,000 last year, and showed people taking a more positive approach to sexual health.
“A rise in STI (sexually transmitted infection)-related queries is an indicator of the wider community’s evolving attitude to sexual health. This is a very welcome change as it shows that people are increasingly viewing their sexual health as an integral part of their overall health and life.”
Dr Davoren said Cork had signed up to the global HIV fast-track cities initiative, the centre having acted as co-signatory for the county.