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The first survey of attitudes of medical students in Ireland towards termination of pregnancy
  1. James M Fitzgerald,
  2. Katherine E Krause,
  3. Darya Yermak,
  4. Suzanne Dunne,
  5. Ailish Hannigan,
  6. Walter Cullen,
  7. David Meagher,
  8. Deirdre McGrath,
  9. Paul Finucane,
  10. Calvin Coffey,
  11. Colum Dunne
  1. Graduate Entry Medical School, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland
  1. Correspondence to Professor Colum Dunne, Graduate Entry Medical School, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland; colum.dunne{at}


Background Since the UK Abortion Act (1967), women have travelled from Ireland to the UK for legal abortion. In 2011 >4000 women did so. Knowledge and attitudes of medical students towards abortion have been published, however, this is the first such report from Ireland.

Objective To investigate medical students’ attitudes towards abortion in Ireland.

Methods All medical students at the University of Limerick, and physicians who graduated from the university within the previous 12 months, were invited via email to complete an anonymous online survey. The questionnaire comprised 17 questions. Quantitative and qualitative analyses were performed.

Results Response rate was 45% (n=169; 55% women; 88.2% <30 years of age; 66.7% Irish; 29.2% North American). Outcomes were: abortion should not be legally available (7.1%), abortion should be allowed in limited circumstances only (35.5%), abortion should be legally available upon request (55%). 72.8% of respondents were moderately/strongly prochoice (74% of women/71% of men/72% and 76% of Irish and North American respondents, respectively). Students aged >30 years were less likely to be prochoice (55%). While 95.2% believed that education on abortion should be offered within medical school curricula, 28.8% stated that they would decline to terminate pregnancies even if legally permitted. While 58.8% indicated that they might perform legal abortions once qualified, 25.7% would do so under limited circumstances only.

Conclusions The majority of participants wanted education regarding abortion. Despite being predominantly prochoice, considerably fewer students, irrespective of nationality, indicated that they would perform abortions.

  • Abortion
  • Applied and Professional Ethics
  • Clinical Ethics
  • Embryos and Fetuses
  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology

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