25% of GPs won’t provide abortion service, finds poll
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.
Ruth Coppinger: Urged TDs to consider how cruel they sound to the general public.