herald

Monday 18 June 2018

Medical card will cover terminations as cost of €300 likely

Chief executive of the IFPA Niall Behan
Chief executive of the IFPA Niall Behan

The cost of an abortion in Ireland will be in the region of €300, according to well-placed medical sources.

It is expected that the abortion pills which will be used in vast majority of abortions will come under the drugs payment scheme, which sets a limit of €134 for any approved prescribed drugs or medicines.

In addition, the process will require at least two GP appointments, each of which will be more expensive than the typical 10-minute slot usually allocated per patient.

According to the Government's draft heads of a bill published prior to the referendum, women will be able to request an abortion through a GP or primary care service such as the Well Woman Clinic.

Thorough

After their initial contact, they'll be required to wait for a 72-hour "consideration" period. Once this time elapses, they'll return to their doctor for a second consultation where the drug will then be dispensed.

GP Dr Mary Favier said it is likely that such consultations will be more extensive, complex and lengthy, and therefore doctors will be likely to charge more. This could be in the region of €100 for the first and €80 for a second appointment.

GPs will have to give a thorough assessment of the patient, checking for pre-existing illnesses to ensure the pill is suitable. A physical exam to accurately determine the gestation of the pregnancy will also be required.

It's likely medical card holders will be able to access the pill and doctor's appointments for free as usual.

Students who have cheaper doctor's appointments on campuses will face lower costs.

In the UK, the abortion pill through private services such as Marie Stopes clinic costs €380.

However, 1,500 Irish women a year purchase it illegally through specialist websites for €70 to €90.

The abortion pill comes in two parts. The first medicine, mifepristone, ends the pregnancy by blocking the vital hormone progesterone, without which the lining of the uterus breaks down and the pregnancy cannot continue.

The second medicine, misoprostol, makes the womb contract and triggers the loss of pregnancy similar to a miscarriage. It causes bleeding and cramping and it is advised to take it as early in pregnancy as possible in order to reduce painful side effects.

Most women take the pills on a Friday if they're off work for the weekend, in order to give time for recovery, several GPs told the Herald.

Health Minister Simon Harris is today bringing to Cabinet a timetable of next steps which will see the legislation published within six weeks.

The Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) confirmed yesterday it would provide integrated care for women with unintended pregnancies as soon as the new law is enacted.

These will include abortion services, alongside counselling services, contraceptive services and post-abortion care.

Chief executive of the IFPA Niall Behan said they would have the capacity to provide the service on their premises as long as they were given the right resources, and provided with clear guidelines.

Accessible

"It's not a very complex procedure but we require guidelines and resources from government," said Mr Behan.

He also called for a national helpline for women to be put in place, where any woman in crisis can seek advice and be directed to a suitable provider.

"If we can keep the service centred on women's needs, make sure that it's affordable, accessible and acceptable to women, then what we'll have done is we'll have met the wishes of the 1.4 million people who voted on Friday," added Mr Behan.

The Department of Health has already requested a meeting with relevant medical colleges, which will happen today, said a spokesperson for Mr Harris.

The minister is "determined to move quickly but also to ensure we get this right and have a safe service for women", they said.

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