herald

Sunday 18 August 2019

Coombe not ready for full abortion services 'until early February'

The Coombe Hospital has been at the centre of controversy
The Coombe Hospital has been at the centre of controversy

The Coombe Hospital will not be ready to provide a full range of abortion services under the new law until early February, it emerged yesterday.

The hospital has had to limit the service since January 1, although it is performing terminations where a woman has been certified as carrying a baby with a diagnosed fatal foetal abnormality.

Refused

The hospital was at the centre of controversy earlier this week following claims made in the Dail that a pregnant woman, who was told by doctors that her unborn child had a fatal foetal abnormality, was refused an abortion.

However, confusion remains about the exact details of the case and the full diagnosis which was given to the woman when she went for a scan at 13 weeks into her pregnancy.

A guidance document for obstetricians yesterday said that some pregnant women whose unborn baby has been diagnosed with a major foetal abnormality may still have to travel abroad for a termination.

The guidelines, from the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, point out the new abortion law restricts termination after 12 weeks in this country to certain circumstances.

Obstetricians in maternity units across the country were only issued with the guidance on how to manage cases of fatal foetal abnormality under the new abortion law yesterday.

The document makes clear that not all foetal abnormalities can be diagnosed as fatal early on and cases should be discussed by a multi-disciplinary team of doctors to reach a consensus and prognosis.

It lists 14 fatal foetal abnormalities and life-limiting conditions which are highly likely to lead to death in the womb or in the newborn period in the first 28 days of life.

"The prognosis may become clearer as the pregnancy progresses," the document said.

It also states that surgical terminations after 12 weeks of pregnancy are unlikely to be "widely available" in maternity services in 2019.

This may also be the case for dilation and evacuation after 14 weeks of pregnancy "but this might change over time".

If a pregnant woman has a scan and major foetal anomaly is suspected, she should be referred to a specialist on foetal medicine within 24 to 72 hours.

The Dail was told by Solidarity TD Ruth Coppinger and People Before Profit TD Brid Smith that the woman who was attending the Coombe was informed the organs of the foetus were outside the body.

They said the woman was advised to wait a number of weeks to see if she had a spontaneous miscarriage.

Women who are turned down by doctors for an abortion have a right to appeal.

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