Monday 18 February 2019

Fewer than half of GPs let their names be given to women using abortion helpline

Probe: Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon. Picture: Steve Humphreys
Probe: Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon. Picture: Steve Humphreys
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Just 126 of the 253 GPs who have so far signed up to provide medical abortions are allowing their names to be released to women who ring up the 'My Options' freephone information line.

If a GP allows their name to be released as part of the information line directory it means that women inquiring about abortion may be able to choose who is the most convenient to attend.

Doctors who have signed up, but not allowed their names to be released, are likely to mostly provide the service to their own patients or accept referrals from other GPs who are not participating.

The new law extending the grounds for abortion was in place for a month last Friday. When it started on January 1 there were 200 GPs involved and it has grown slowly as more received training.

GPs provide medical abortions up to nine weeks of pregnancy and refer women who are nine to 12-weeks pregnant to a maternity hospital.

The freephone information line run by the HSE received an average of 500 calls for the first two weeks, and this reduced to 300 more recently.

Around 10-15pc of the calls are from health professionals.

The HSE said it gets an average of 50-60 calls a day.

Nine maternity hospitals are providing abortion services. The Coombe maternity hospital in Dublin, which was providing limited service since January 1, moved to a full service from yesterday.

It means that women from the catchment area who are between nine and 12-weeks pregnant will be able to be referred there for a medical abortion.

All maternity hospitals are managing complications arising from abortion and providing care and supervision for women following a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality. The women are being referred to larger maternity hospitals.

They are also providing care and supervision in cases where maternal health or life is at risk, referring the patients for specialist care where needed.

The hospitals are also giving scans and administering Anti D.

Meanwhile, it was confirmed yesterday that the HSE has lodged a complaint with Google about the bogus MyOptions site which is unregulated.

The HSE has also increased its digital spend to try to prevent the bogus site from appearing at the top of Google searches.

The move follows a revelation last week that a woman who had an abortion in a Dublin maternity hospital was contacted through an unsolicited text by a man involved in the bogus website.

He offered her an ultrasound even though she had not been in contact with his organisation.

The incident is currently being investigated by the HSE and is also being probed by the Data Protection Commissioner, Helen Dixon.

Meanwhile, the nurses' strike is leading to some abortion procedures which are non urgent having to be postponed.

Women who are certified for a medical abortion and are near the 12-week time limit are being prioritised to ensure they do not fall outside the law.

Irish Independent

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