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GPs will be permitted to conscientiously object to providing abortion services, Harris says

The government has said it wants terminations to be a ‘GP-led’ service.

Image: Leah Farrell via Rolling News

MINISTER FOR HEALTH Simon Harris has issued an assurance that GPs will be consulted before any legislative decisions are made regarding a GP-led abortion service in Ireland, and that “conscientious objections” will be provided for.

The Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment recommended that unrestricted abortion should be available up to 12 weeks of pregnancy and felt this should be achieved “through a GP-led service”.

This is the approach the government is planning to take under legislation being prepared by Harris.

Yesterday evening, the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGB) said some of its 2000 GPs were “outraged” that they would be expected to be the main contact for women to secure terminations.

The association said this was being done “without consultation” and that it is seeking “immediate engagement” with the minister.

This morning, Harris issued a reassurance in a tweet to concerned GPs that this would not, in fact, be the case.

“There will be a conscientious objection provided for. Plenty of time for engagement but legislation not yet published, let alone a referendum held,” Harris tweeted.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland today, chairperson of the NAGP Dr Andrew Jordan said that the association received contact from the Minister’s office late last night confirming that there will be engagement with any relevant representative bodies before any new system is implemented.

“He has said that before any new process or any new system is put in place there will be discussions with the representative bodies,” Jordan said.

Jordan went on the explain why the association published its concerns yesterday evening.

“There was a certain annoyance over the lack of any discussion taking place in advance of putting such a service in place, it was felt to be presumptive in nature,” he said.

“We want the process to proceed and we want the people to speak, but leaving that aside there are legal, ethical and practical challenges in putting such a system in place.

“We will obviously have a certain number of GPs who will be conscientious objectors. Does it have to be a GP-led system? That’s another question,” he said.

Oireachtas Committee

The involvement of GPs in early-stage pregnancy was discussed at the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment.

The Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) gave evidence before the committee and outlined that for the majority of pregnant women, antenatal care and support before 20 weeks’ gestation is provided by GPs alone.

“When a pregnancy is unwanted, Irish GPs support and provide evidence-based care for women through this difficult experience,” ICGP’s Dr Brendan O’Shea told the committee.

Dr Andrew Jordan told Morning Ireland that the NAGP respects the fact that Minister for Health Simon Harris has reached out “at the last minute and given us this commitment”.

Read: Some GPs are ‘outraged’ that they’re being expected to lead abortion services

More: The Supreme Court case that needs to be resolved before the Eighth Amendment referendum

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