Wednesday 26 June 2019

Eilish O'Regan: 'Cautious medics will not be rushed over new law'


(Stock picture)
(Stock picture)
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

It took nearly six months to implement the last abortion law in 2014 allowing for termination of pregnancy where there is a real and substantial risk to a woman's life from a physical illness, including suicide.

The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act was signed into law in the summer of 2013 and did not become operational until January the following year, allowing time for training and guidelines.

That was much more limited in scope than the current Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy Bill.

It allows for a medical abortion up to 12 weeks and terminations where there is a risk to the life or of serious harm to the health of the pregnant woman.

It also provides terminations for fatal foetal abnormalities.

Yet the plan is to implement this complex and far-reaching law, which has yet to be passed by the Seanad, in a few short weeks.

It's difficult not to sympathise with the concerns of doctors and maternity hospitals who asked for more time.

On the other hand, there is the compelling reality that nine women a day are going to the UK for abortions and the people voted for change as far back as the May referendum.

And it is always good to have a target date.

Much behind-the-scenes preparation has been ongoing, but there has been an information vacuum as far as medics are concerned. The service must now be phased in and will evolve.

Women in crisis pregnancy will get an abortion from early January but may have to travel.

In the meantime, there is a reluctance from a significant number of GPs and obstetricians to sign up until they are satisfied that outstanding concerns about training, access to ultrasounds, indemnity and its impact on their own services will be clearer.

They will not be rushed.

It comes on the back of the CervicalCheck controversy which several members of the obstetric community found themselves embroiled in over the delay in giving women with cervical cancer their test audit results. It gives some insight into their caution.

Irish Independent

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