'Women will be forced to travel for abortion' after doctors' decision
A decision by the four obstetricians in one of the main hospitals in the south-east not to offer an abortion service will force women to travel even though it may be difficult and expensive for them to do so, it was claimed yesterday.
The Abortion Rights Campaign was reacting to a letter to GPs from the four doctors in St Luke's Hospital in Kilkenny which said it was "decided unanimously that the hospital is not an appropriate location for medical or surgical terminations".
The letter, signed by Ray O'Sullivan on behalf of himself and colleagues Raouf Salam, Yuddandi Nagaveni and Trevor Hayes, states it was "also adjudged that, in the event of professional and values training of staff willing to participate in such procedures, the hospital remains an unsuitable location for these services".
They said hospital staff were committed to the safe delivery of care for women but "the addition of a termination service is not possible for a multitude of very challenging reasons".
Under the abortion legislation individual health staff have a right not to participate on the grounds of conscientious objection. However, it is ultimately a matter for the Ireland East Hospital Group and the HSE to decide on services.
Anna Carnegie, a spokesperson for the Abortion Rights Campaign, said that in the group's view it is unacceptable that four consultants have made a decision not to provide abortion care at St Luke's.
She said this seemed to be a categorical decision when viewed with an accompanying letter from Mr O'Sullivan stating that "all patients will be dealt with in a compassionate manner but I again stress that the termination service is not available in St Luke's Hospital".
"Last year 86 people from the Carlow and Kilkenny area were forced to travel to [Britain] for abortion care," she said. "Many people cannot travel long distances for abortion care, for various reasons including costs, caring responsibilities, health issues, precarious employment or controlling partners.
"Women and pregnant people in these situations are being denied their rights. It is unsurprising that abortion pills continue to be imported illegally despite the change in the law.
"We call on the Government to ensure that safe and legal abortion care is accessible locally throughout the country," she said.
"Institutional obstruction and refusal of care such as this is insulting... and in defiance of the will of the Irish public."
Since the new abortion legislation came into force in January, just 10 of the country's 19 units provide abortions.
While medical abortion can be carried out by a GP up to nine weeks of pregnancy, women who are between nine and 12 weeks must have a termination in a hospital.