Sunday 22 September 2019

GPs will give pills for most abortions so hospitals will not face flood of patients

Master of Holles Street Dr Rhona Mahony believes hospitals are ready to provide care

Alan O'Keeffe

Ireland's health services will cope well with providing pregnancy terminations without the need for a significant boost in resources.

The vast majority of abortions will be brought about using pills that induce miscarriage and only a very small percentage of cases will require a visit to a hospital, said Dr Rhona Mahony, Master of the National Maternity Hospital.

It is envisaged that terminations up to 12 weeks will be performed through the use of pills provided to women by GPs.

There are two types of these pills which are taken under medical supervision. One prepares the uterus for miscarriage. The other pills are taken as a series and create uterine contractions that induce miscarriage.

There is a medical follow-up to ensure the woman is well.

"You would generally make sure by taking a home pregnancy test after about three weeks to ensure that it has returned to being negative again. It's a relatively simple process," said Dr Mahony.

Certainly, warnings about hospitals being unable to cope with large numbers of women were unfounded.

The 3,000 women who travelled yearly to Britain for terminations, and the 1,500 women who used pills for terminations on Irish soil each year, are not a large proportion of the overall number of women in Ireland who become pregnant each year. Some 60,000 babies are delivered in Ireland annually so the existing hospitals will be able to care for any additional women patients.

How Did Your Constituency Vote?

Final Results Constituencies declared: 40/40

Map Key

Yes 55% 50% 55% No

"We have to avoid this 'floodgate' thing that we hear all the time which is misogynistic and which is not borne out," she said.

Most of the cohort of women who would travel to Britain for a termination will be cared for in Ireland chiefly by the use of abortion pills.

''For a hospital like mine, the big issue will be caring for patients with foetal anomaly. We know about 60 of these women travelled every year from my hospital. We deliver about 9,000 babies out of 10,000 pregnancies each year because unfortunately about 1,000 women will miscarry.

''These extra numbers are not going to upend our hospital.

Constituencies with the strongest Yes/No vote

The table below shows the top five constituencies with the strongest vote for or against repealing the Eighth Amendment.

Dublin Bay South 78.49% 21.51%

Dún Laoghaire 77.06% 22.94%

Dublin Fingal 76.96% 23.04%

Dublin Central 76.51% 23.49%

Dublin Rathdown 76.10% 23.90%

Donegal 48.13% 51.87%

''We want to care for these women and that's a very important message for these women,'' she said.

Some women with babies with fatal conditions will still wish to go full term and they will be supported.

Couples are very grateful to have the chance to have even one hour in a single day with their child, she said.

''In terms of serious risk to health and life of women, they will come to tertiary hospitals like mine. We already perform about five terminations a year in terms of risks like that. That won't change,'' she said.

''Much of abortions, terminations up to 12 weeks, will happen in the community through GPs. Care can be given in a community setting. We will see a small proportion where there are complications,'' she said.

''The big area we need to resource is in the area of prevention strategies. This is much broader than introducing termination of pregnancy. We need to see how women are getting into crisis pregnancies and what preventative strategies really support women.

''The type of sex education that is being given to our children is really pitiful in a lot of schools. How equipped are young people for sexuality? We need to take a much broader look,'' she said.

Speaking as the referendum landslide was being revealed yesterday, she said: ''I feel incredibly emotional. This is a day for those women who have taken planes and who travelled by sea, who have been excluded from our health system.

''So I think Ireland has voted with real compassion to take on real life. I'm moved because I know these patients.

''I have such great admiration for the women who spoke and who really changed the tone of the conversation,'' she said.

Dr Mahony went on to say: ''There is great sadness at the heart of this conversation and for many women there has been a long journey of sadness.

''Women will face very difficult circumstances in the future but I think that we know how difficult life is.

''At the heart of this is the realisation that real life presents us with extraordinarily difficult dilemmas and it's part of being human."

Recently, the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Health Minister Simon Harris stated there were no plans to allow clinics to be set up to provide abortion services, either public or private. Care will be provided within the existing health service. Any surgical terminations will be confined to hospitals. There is no provision for the opening of abortion clinics.

Sunday Independent

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