Sunday 22 September 2019

Hundreds still go to Britain for abortion as concern rises of delays here

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Hundreds of women a month have travelled to Britain for abortions since May's Repeal the Eighth referendum, figures reveal.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) - the country's leading abortion provider - says 133 Irish women used its services in June.

There were 110 in July, 115 in August and 120 in September.

The BPAS has clinics in more than 60 locations and many of them are close to ports and airports with direct budget travel from Ireland.

It is understood the BPAS figures only represent a proportion of women who are continuing to take the abortion trail to Britain. An estimated nine women a day are believed to make the journey.

The ongoing demand for abortion in Britain has emerged as the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill is due to return to the Dáil for report stage this week before going to the Seanad. Several amendments are to be brought forward again by both anti- and pro-abortion TDs.

One proposes the removal of the word "serious" in determining the level of risk which must be reached before a woman is deemed eligible for a termination.

There is growing concern that while the legislation may pass before the end of the year, the original target to have it operational in January with wider access to abortion will not be met.

This is because services on the ground will not be ready to deliver the extension of medical abortion up to 12 weeks and allow for terminations where there is a serious risk to the health or life or the mother.

The bill will also allow for terminations in cases of diagnosed fatal foetal abnormality.

However, basics such as GP training in the delivery of medical abortion as well as assurances on access to ultrasound have yet to be finalised.

Clinical guidelines have yet to be agreed and these are needed to ensure doctors and nurses know what to do.

A key element of the new abortion regime will be a 24- hour, seven-days-a-week phone line which women can ring for information, counselling and direction to the nearest provider. This will need to be properly manned by trained staff.

Several maternity hospitals are also worried about the impact on resources in areas such as theatre time and access to ultrasound.

The Irish College of General Practitioners, the professional and training body for family doctors, will hold an EGM next weekend and this will be important in measuring the readiness of GPs.

A spokeswoman said: "The College's position has been clear from the beginning that it favours an opt-in service for GPs who wish to provide the service, with the provision of a 24-hour helpline that patients can access directly as an essential requirement."

The GP body's board of directors have called the meeting to consult further and listen to members. However, a number of anti-abortion GPs who had lobbied for a meeting have already criticised the decision not to hear motions.

The spokeswoman said the College received a request for an EGM on October 31 but this was "invalid".

Irish Independent

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