Tuesday 12 November 2019

Anti-abortion GPs object to referring women for terminations

Request: The group has asked Health Minister Simon Harris to reconsider
Request: The group has asked Health Minister Simon Harris to reconsider
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

A group of anti-abortion GPs who insist they do not want to be "forced" to refer a pregnant woman seeking a medical termination to another practice have appealed to Health Minister Simon Harris to "put on the brakes" and not push through the new law.

Dr Andrew O'Regan, a GP in Kerry, said he was among a group of several hundred anti-abortion family doctors across the country who objected to the proposed legislation, which will make it mandatory for them to refer a woman looking for a termination as soon "as may be".

"The Government needs to respect freedom of conscience," he said.

He said there would be instances where as a doctor he did not believe it ias clinically right for a woman to have a termination.

However, he would have to make arrangements for her to see a doctor who would carry out the abortion.

"That is taking away my clinical autonomy," he told the 'Pat Kenny Show' on Newstalk radio yesterday.

"The minister needs to put on the brakes and think this through."

The Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill comes before the Dáil this week for debate.

It aims to give effect to the referendum result repealing the Eighth Amendment and extending the grounds for abortion.

It allows for freedom of conscience for doctors to opt out of providing a medical or surgical abortion.

However, it states that they must make arrangements to transfer the care of a women who asks them to provide an abortion to another medic who will carry out the procedure.

Under the law, GPs will be allowed to provide a medical abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy.

It is expected women who are between nine and 12 weeks' pregnant will be referred to hospital.

Mr Harris met various groups yesterday, including the Irish College of General Practitioners and the National Women's Council in advance of bringing the legislation to the Dáil with the aim of having it rolled out in January.

The resistance of a small but significant number of GPs, who do not want to be involved in referral, will require some form of accommodation, although it is unclear how this would work.

The Medical Council guidelines also require doctors who have a conscientious objection to a procedure to refer the patient to another medic.

A public list of GPs willing to perform abortions is expected to be resisted because it could mean their surgeries are the target of anti-abortion protesters.

A 24-hour phone line is expected to be set up to give women in a crisis pregnancy advice as well as direction if complications arise due to the medical abortion.

Irish Independent

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