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A formative evaluation of online information to support abortion access in England, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland
  1. Deirdre Niamh Duffy1,
  2. Claire Pierson2,
  3. Paul Best3
  1. 1 Faculty of Health, Psychology and Social Care, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, UK
  2. 2 Department of Politics, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK
  3. 3 School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work, Queens University Belfast, Belfast, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Deirdre Niamh Duffy, Faculty of Health, Psychology and Social Care, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester M15 6GX, UK; d.duffy{at}


Objectives To evaluate web-based information on accessing abortion services retrieved through internet searches in different jurisdictions from the perspective of service users. To provide a formative evaluative mechanism for enabling user-focused design of abortion access information web pages.

Design Web searches were conducted in three countries—England, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland—using two search engines in the summer of 2016. Four search terms were used and the first two pages of results were analysed. The perspective of someone seeking abortion services was used. Sources were evaluated using a five-item tool combining user-based indicators identified in other instruments and a question on jurisdictional accuracy.

Results A total of 619 web pages were retrieved through initial searches, 83 of which related to accessing services; 22 pages were retrieved from the Republic of Ireland, 31 from Northern Ireland, and 30 from England. Fewer than a third (n=31) were judged as good or excellent by the tool. The jurisdictional relevancy of information retrieved varied; almost half of all results in each country provided information that was either inaccurate within or irrelevant to the jurisdiction where the search took place.

Conclusions If online information is to support abortion access, the circumstances and perspective of the user requires more attention. Designers of abortion information pages online need to ensure that information about access is relevant to the jurisdiction in which users are based.

  • abortion seekers
  • access to information
  • access to abortion care
  • Ireland
  • England

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to copy, redistribute, remix, transform and build upon this work for any purpose, provided the original work is properly cited, a link to the licence is given, and indication of whether changes were made. See:

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  • DND and CP contributed equally.

  • Contributors DND: contributed to the design of the tool, data collection, analysis, and writing up of findings. CP: conceived of the original idea and contributed to the design of the tool, data collection, analysis, and writing up of findings. PB: contributed to the design of the tool, statistical analysis, and writing up of the findings.

  • Funding The research was produced with the support of Wellcome Trust grant 110469/A/15/Z (‘The Liverpool-Ireland Abortion Corridor: History, Activism and Medical Practice’).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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