25% of GPs won’t pro­vide abor­tion ser­vice, finds poll

Irish Examiner - - Front Page - Stephen Rogers

A quar­ter of GPs will not pro­vide an abor­tion ser­vice and would be re­luc­tant to re­fer a preg­nant woman to a col­league, a sur­vey by the Ir­ish Col­lege of Gen­eral Prac­ti­tion­ers (ICGP) found.

The ICGP’s on­line con­sul­ta­tion process noted only a third (32%) of the 3,500 GPs sur­veyed are cur­rently will­ing and able to pro­vide ter­mi­na­tion of preg­nancy ser­vices.

The other 43% said they are not in a po­si­tion to of­fer such ser­vices due to con­cerns re­gard­ing ca­pac­ity, re­sources, or con­sci­en­tious ob­jec­tion but are will­ing to re­fer to an­other col­league.

ICGP said it car­ried out the sur­vey to guide the de­vel­op­ment of clin­i­cal guide­lines for the pro­vi­sion of ter­mi­na­tion of preg­nancy ser­vices in the com­mu­nity.

It said the con­sul­ta­tion showed GPs strongly be­lieve the pro­vi­sion of a suit­ablystaffed 24-hour helpline is a vi­tal el­e­ment of the ser­vice, as it will be a mech­a­nism to en­sure that those who do not wish to pro­vide the ser­vice will not be re­quired to do so.

“The data in­di­cates that the ma­jor­ity of GPs are ei­ther will­ing to pro­vide the ser­vice or re­fer a pa­tient to an­other doc­tor who will,” said Tony Cox, med­i­cal direc­tor of the ICGP.

He said a 24-hour helpline would help women seek­ing an abor­tion to be re­ferred to a GP or other provider in the com­mu­nity who was able to pro­vide the ser­vice to them.

“Of those who do not wish to pro­vide a ser­vice, re­sourc­ing and work­load is a ma­jor con­cern. Our feed­back shows that there is gen­uine worry that the promised rapid ac­cess to ul­tra­sound scans and hos­pi­tal care will not be de­liv­ered.

“The find­ings also demon­strate that there is a co­hort of GPs who will not opt to pro­vide ser­vices due to con­cerns re­lated to con­sci­en­tious ob­jec­tion.”

The col­lege is in the midst of a series of na­tion­wide re­gional meet­ings for mem­bers to dis­cuss their con­cerns about abor­tion ser­vices.

It will also hold an ex­tra­or­di­nary gen­eral meet­ing of its mem­bers on De­cem­ber 2 to dis­cuss the pro­vi­sion of abor­tion ser­vices by GPs.

“Re­cent me­dia re­ports that over 600 col­lege mem­bers had called for this EGM are in­cor­rect,” said the col­lege.

“The orig­i­nal re­quest was ac­com­pa­nied by a list of names of which 373 were mem­bers of the col­lege.”

Af­ter more than 24 hours of de­bate and at-times heated ex­changes over three con­sec­u­tive days, leg­is­la­tion to al­low for abor­tion has passed com­mit­tee stage.

How­ever, Health Min­is­ter Si­mon Har­ris will still have to meet mem­bers of the Oireach­tas health com­mit­tee early next week to thrash out a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of amend­ments which he has promised to seek com­pro­mise on be­fore the bill goes to re­port stage.

A to­tal of 180 amend­ments were tabled to the Health (Reg­u­la­tion of Ter­mi­na­tion of Preg­nancy Bill) 2018 and there were sharp ex­changes over a num­ber put for­ward by a group of 10 anti-abor­tion TDs.

Dis­cussing the is­sue of con­sci­en­tious ob­jec­tion, In­de­pen­dent Tip­per­ary TD Mat­tie McGrath ac­cused Har­ris of “re­fus­ing to even lis­ten to GPs” and sug­gested that doc­tors would have to turn their prac­tices into “abor­tion clin­ics”.

Com­mit­tee chair­man Michael Harty, him­self a GP, said Mr McGrath was out of or­der af­ter he sug­gested that Mr Har­ris would go down in his­tory as the most in­com­pe­tent min­is­ter for health in the his­tory of the State over the is­sue.

Mr Har­ris re­sponded to crit­i­cism by say­ing “there is no deco­rum” among some mem­bers as, dur­ing yes­ter­day’s de­bate, he had been called “sim­ple” and the “most in­com­pe­tent min­is­ter in the his­tory of the State”.

The com­mit­tee was also de­layed when the anti-abor­tion group­ing called a vote on many of their amend­ments. Pro­pos­als which would have re­quired doc­tors to of­fer DVDs show­ing abor­tions to women be­fore they have a ter­mi­na­tion were re­jected yes­ter­day.

The amend­ment also stip­u­lated that med­i­cal prac­ti­tion­ers would have to give de­tails of the anatom­i­cal and phys­i­o­log­i­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics of the foe­tus at the time the abor­tion is to be per­formed. Mr Har­ris said this as­pect of the amendMr ment is “par­tic­u­larly cruel”, es­pe­cially to those par­ents who re­ceive a di­ag­no­sis of a fa­tal foetal ab­nor­mal­ity.

He later said he is “gen­uinely a bit con­fused” about a clause stip­u­lat­ing that women must be in­formed of the rights of the father, as he said it “seems to im­ply that it is only a cer­tain type of woman who seeks a ter­mi­na­tion”. He said the ma­jor­ity of Ir­ish women who ac­cess abor­tions in Bri­tain are in re­la­tion­ships.

There was also anger at a pro­posal that an in­for­ma­tion DVD be made avail­able.

Sol­i­dar­ity-PBP TD Ruth Cop­pinger said: “What’s be­ing pro­posed here is you want to force any women or preg­nant per­son who is about to have an abor­tion to watch a DVD to get a de­scrip­tion of the pro­ce­dure.”

She asked the mem­bers who put for­ward the pro­posal to “con­sider how ab­so­lutely cruel you sound to the gen­eral pub­lic”. Ms Cop­pinger sug­gested that a man go­ing in for can­cer treat­ment would never be asked to watch a DVD of the op­er­a­tion be­fore­hand.

Sinn Féin TD Peadar Toibín said the pro­pos­als are about in­for­ma­tion.

Tony Cox: Ma­jor­ity are will­ing to pro­vide ser­vice or re­fer.

Pic­ture: Gareth Chaney Collins

Ruth Cop­pinger: Urged TDs to con­sider how cruel they sound to the gen­eral pub­lic.

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