herald

Friday 15 November 2019

Nearly 90pc of Irish GPs still not signed up to carry out abortions

Abortion is offered by 337 GPs
Abortion is offered by 337 GPs

Just 13pc of GPs have signed up to provide abortion services and there are still two counties where there are no family doctors offering terminations.

There are now 337 GPs in the country who have signed the contract to provide the service, the latest figures show.

They reveal an increase of only one doctor since July.

Meanwhile, Carlow and Sligo are still the only two counties where there are no GPs offering abortions.

Women who are less than nine weeks pregnant can go to a GP for a termination.

GPs are not obliged to provide the service but they must refer women to doctors who do.

The Medical Council last month issued new guidelines setting out that doctors with a conscientious objection to abortion must refer women to another practitioner.

The Department of Health has told the Oireachtas Health Committee that 13pc of more than 2,500 GPs in Ireland had signed up to offer abortion services as of July.

"Although there is a good geographic spread of GPs taking part, enough to meet the needs of people who may need to access the service, there are no GPs providing the service in Carlow or Sligo," it said.

Support

The HSE confirmed this remains the case and that one additional doctor has signed up since July. It said 16 more have signed the contract but are awaiting the completion of the process.

It said 188 of the 337 doctors who provide the service had consented to having their details shared by the 'My Options' support service for unplanned pregnancies. That is up from 126 in February.

"In line with the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018, a primarily community-led service is being delivered by GPs in primary care settings and women's health service providers with appropriate access and care pathways to acute hospital services as required."

It added: "No capacity issues have been raised, and service demand remains within the predicted limits," the HSE said.

Abortions are available up to 12 weeks into a pregnancy in acute hospitals but there must be exceptional circumstances for terminations beyond that, such as a risk to the mother's life or a serious threat to her health.

Problem

Abortions can also take place beyond 12 weeks where the foetus is likely to die either before or within 28 days of birth due to a problem with its development.

The first report on the number of abortions being carried out is not due to be published until 2020.

Ireland's abortion laws were changed after the 2018 referendum in which people voted to repeal the Eighth Amendment.

There were instances this year of small protests outside clinics and hospitals that offer terminations.

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