Is Fornication the Leading Reason for Crisis Pregnancies in Ireland?

Michelle Mulherin TD

Michelle Mulherin TD

An archaic choice of words became a trending topic on Twitter when during the Dáil debate on proposed abortion legislation, Mayo Fine Gael TD Michelle Mulherin said:

Abortion, as murder, therefore sin, which is the religious argument, is no more sinful, from a scriptural point of view, than all other sins we don’t legislate against, like greed, hate and fornication, the latter, being fornication, I would say, is probably the single most likely cause of unwanted pregnancies in this country.

If fornication merely means having sex then it is trivially true that it is responsible for all pregnancies, other than medically assisted ones (although in that case, it’s safe to assume they were “wanted.”) Given that TD Mulherin describes fornication as a sin, she presumably means sexual intercourse between two people who are not married to each other. I also assume that by unwanted pregnancies, she means crisis pregnancies.

The Statutory Instrument that founded the Crisis Pregnancy Agency defines a crisis pregnancy as follows (quoted from the HSE Crisis Pregnancy Agency 2010 report):

 A pregnancy which is neither planned nor desired by the woman concerned, and which represents a personal crisis for her.

However in the report, they suggest:

Since ‘crisis pregnancy’ encompasses a far broader set of circumstances, CPA has suggested that the definition also include the experience of women for whom a planned or desired pregnancy develops into a crisis over time due to a change in circumstances.

Although it is true to say that most crisis pregnancies occur outside marriage, this does not make the fact that couples are not married the single most likely cause of crisis pregnancies.

Unfortunately, the most recent ICCP survey (2010) was not available for analysis so the ICCP 2003 survey must suffice as a guide. The following table lists the leading causes, with the fact that the pregnancy was unplanned being the leading factor.

Reasons For Crisis Pregnancy - ICCP Survey 2003

Reasons For Crisis Pregnancy - ICCP Survey 2003

As can be seen below, a teenager is highly likely to cite her youth as a reason for a crisis pregnancy, whereas in other age groups, the fact the pregnancy wasn’t planned is the leading reason.

Reasons For Crisis Pregnancy By Age - ICCP 2003

Reasons For Crisis Pregnancy By Age - ICCP 2003

TD Mulherin is correct to imply most couples were not married when the crisis pregnancy occurred but it is not the case that the couples weren’t in a relationship. In fact in 71% of cases, the couple were in some sort of steady relationship, as can be seen here:

Relationship Status - ICCP Survey 2003

Relationship Status - ICCP Survey 2003

An interesting aside is the effect the recession is having on whether a pregnant woman considers her pregnancy a crisis. Last summer, the Crisis Pregnancy Agency conducted a survey with a sample of 2,300 women randomly selected from the Department of Social Protection’s universal child benefit register which comprised of women whose youngest child was born between July 2007 and June 2009. It found that:

  • The economic down-turn is having a clear impact on reports of crisis pregnancy as almost 50% of the women who experienced a crisis pregnancy stated that financial concerns contributed to the crisis.
  • 27% of working women who experienced a crisis pregnancy stated that workplace factors such as ‘work plans’ or ‘work commitments’ or ‘concern about the reaction from employers or co-workers’ to the pregnancy had contributed to the crisis.
  • There is a strong link between experiences of unfair treatment at work and crisis pregnancy: Women who experienced more than one form of unfair treatment were at an increased risk of experiencing a crisis pregnancy.
  • The availability of flexible working practices was associated with a reduced likelihood of crisis pregnancy for women in employment. Mothers who experienced lower levels of work-family conflict during pregnancy were less likely to report a crisis pregnancy.
  • Up to 30% reported experiencing unfair treatment even though 71%, reported that they had a supportive employer in the context of their pregnancy.
  • 5% of women employed during pregnancy reported that they were dismissed, made redundant or treated so badly that they had to leave their job.
  • Unfair treatment was more commonly reported by younger women, women expecting their second child, women working in the retail and wholesale sector, women working in organisations with few flexible work arrangements and in workplaces that didn’t have a formal equality policy. – Unfair treatment was less common among women working for small organizations and in workplaces that had a formal equality policy.
  • The most common form of unfair treatment was being assigned unsuitable work or workloads (12%).
  • Unfavourable treatment was also experienced by some women returning to work after childbirth. Almost one quarter felt that their opportunities for promotion had decreased on returning to work while over one fifth of women felt that their opportunities for training had decreased.











4 comments for “Is Fornication the Leading Reason for Crisis Pregnancies in Ireland?

  1. April 22, 2012 at 11:50 am

    What a weird post for this website – or any website !

    I don’t know the TD or necessarily endorse her views, with which I am not familiar. I also was non-plussed by her revival of the archaism “fornication”, but even more non-plussed by the reaction, not least from Luke “Ming” Flanagan T.D..

    Two points of detail:

    1. “If fornication merely means having sex”

    It doesn’t.

    2. “I also assume that by unwanted pregnancies, she means crisis pregnancies.”

    That seems an unwarranted assumption.

  2. Colin McGovern
    April 23, 2012 at 1:16 pm

    For somebody non-plussed, it’s interesting (albeit welcome) that you took the trouble to comment (although I’m aware you were directed to the article by @datbeardyman).

    The aim of the article was to draw attention to what the CPA themselves see as the major reasons why women have crisis pregnancies. I thought it an important contribution to the debate generally.

    Regarding your points of detail, I would say the following:

    1) I agree, and didn’t rely on that definition anywhere.
    2) If she didn’t mean crisis pregnancies, then it’s difficult to see the relevance of the quote in relation to the abortion debate. However made my assumption clear precisely because I didn’t want to put words in her mouth.

  3. April 24, 2012 at 9:50 am


    Several points arise. I won’t be able to address them all in this comemnt. I may return to address more of them.

    For now, I just make this point.

    I thought that this website was intended as a platform to correct mis-statements of fact. That is why I thought the post was a “weird” one for it, as I see no mis-statement, and no attempt to correct one.

  4. Colin McGovern
    April 24, 2012 at 10:13 am

    A fact checking site in general exists to test the statements people make, not merely the mis-statements. We will in some situations determine that a statement, however controversial, is borne out by the facts.

    TD Mulherin admitted she was making an educated guess, rather than a statement of fact, but it seems a reasonable use of a fact checking site to publish research into the causes affected women themselves state, rather than leaving people to wonder if Mulherin’s supposition is accurate.

Comments are closed.