‘Allow us to give out abortion pills’ – GPs
Two members of Eighth Committee ‘set to walk’
A GROUP representing Ireland’s GPs has told the Dáil Committee on the Eighth Amendment they should be allowed to provide abortion pills and aftercare to women.
The controversial call for more powers from the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) came after two committee members threatened to step down.
Anti-abortion TD Mattie McGrath and pro-life Senator Rónán Mullen said they are considering walking out due to an ‘imbalance’ in the guests being invited to give evidence.
They said they were ridiculed by other TDs, and that over 20 groups who were advocating for abortion had been invited to talk at a time when, they say, only a handful of pro-life groups were asked to appear.
The walkout threat follows a public spat between the committee chair, Fine Gael’s Catherine Noone, and Mr Mullen outside the committee room on Wednesday. Mr Mullen complained that the chair had cut across him when he was questioning World Health Organisation members.
Mr Mullen and Mr McGrath, both Independents, yesterday labelled the committee a ‘sham’, but said they haven’t yet decided if they will remain.
Meanwhile, the GP group, which represents thousands of medics, revealed that around 75% of women who travel abroad for an abortion never tell their doctor, or seek medical advice back in Ireland afterwards.
In its submission, the ICGP said the legal situation around abortion presents a threat to the lives and health of Irish women.
The group said the criminalisation of abortion has made the topic a difficult one to discuss in Ireland. It said that women also endure ‘stress, loneliness, guilt and embarrassment’ because they are forced to travel.
The ICGP’s Dr Brendan O’Shea yesterday gave a presentation to the committee on the issue of crisis pregnancies. He said 21% of these end in abortion. He said the figures show that more than 5,500 women requested so-called abortion pills between 2010 and 2015. He agreed that GPs should be allowed care for women who want access these pills.
In its submission, the ICGP said: ‘Abortion rates are lowest in health systems where contraception services are most readily available. There are real barriers to contraceptive services in Ireland, chiefly related to cost, and incidents with adolescent women related to costs and their own concerns around confidentiality.’
The group outlined how, for a woman who chooses to have an abortion, GPs cannot refer or make an appointment on behalf of her at a clinic in the UK.
It said: ‘Women who return to Ireland post-abortion do not have access to post-abortion services that are available in the country where it was performed, and may be reluctant to present to health services because of stigma and taboo, which leads to a risk of physical ill health.’
The ICGP said a total of 92% of all UK abortions took place before 13 weeks’ gestation.
In terms of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy act, the ICGP said the clinical pathway requires a GP to make a referral to a psychiatry service, and two psychiatrists and an obstetrician need to agree on the case.
The ICGP said that the whole process can be difficult and traumatising for women and that there can be delays of up to six weeks in getting a women access to a termination.
Furthermore, it said women are often evaluated outside their own community. The group said abortion is a ‘difficult and polarising topic’, adding: ‘The constitutional criminalisation of abortion has made this a more difficult issue to discuss in public. However, crisis pregnancies are a reality facing women.
‘The Eighth Amendment clearly raises difficult ethical and moral questions for the public and healthcare providers.’
‘Difficult and polarising topic’
Spat: Chair Catherine Noone was involved in row on Wednesday
Unhappy: Rónán Mullen