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'We need an accessible service': Cork doctors set up group to ensure abortion provision for all communities

Dr Mary Favier said that she expects groups like the one in Cork to be operating around the country.

Image: Shutterstock/Chinnapong

A CORK-BASED GP has said that provisions must be put in place to ensure no woman is “discriminated against” when legislation is enacted to provide abortions in Ireland.

Yesterday, the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) held an emergency meeting in the wake of last month’s referendum, and passed a motion to call on Health Minister Simon Harris to clarify that he does not intend to make a termination of pregnancy service part of routine general practice.

The NAGP also passed motions calling for an “opt-in” provision for doctors to provide abortion services and conscientious objection provision to be inserted into any legislation passed by government.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Doctors for Choice founding member Dr Mary Favier said that over 50 Cork GPs and obstetricians had organised meetings to discuss abortion provision and how the rollout of services could be provided to all those seeking to avail of them once the legislation is passed.

Dr Favier said that when the legislation is passed, women eligible to access these services should be able to regardless of where in the country they are or any disability they may have.

“There’s another group like this in Dublin, and another in the north-west that is starting to go well,” she said. “I’d expect we’ll have them in all the major population centres.”

The expected legislation will allow terminations without restriction up to 12 weeks of pregnancy (most likely via abortion pills in the majority of cases) and in very limited circumstance thereafter, such as when the mother’s life is at risk, as outlined here.

Dr Favier said that their argument was that these services, in many cases, could be “community provided”, and that a “significant part of it would be provided in general practice”.

“We would absolutely say it needs to be appropriately structured,” she said. “GPs already provided care to go with crisis pregnancies, but there is an interruption in that care where women have had to go abroad.”

Speaking after yesterday’s meeting, NAGP president Dr Maitiu O’Tuathail was critical of a lack of engagement with GPs from the Department of Health.

He said: “If this is not done properly it risks being yet another scandal in the health service in years to come.”

Dr Favier, however, said that such comments were “scaremongering”. She said: “Services should be provided in a way that is accessible.

It shouldn’t force women to make the decision they do have to travel [if they have no available service nearby]. Medication abortion is very safe, and has a very low side-effect profile. Some training is required, and resources are needed such as ultrasound and blood tests in some cases but none of that is undoable.

She added that the provision of this essential new service had no equivalent precedent in the Irish health system but that it does not necessarily mean it will be “particularly complicated and difficult”.

“If every GP took part, that’s only two terminations [provided by each doctor] a year,” Dr Favier said. “If as we expect we get around 20-25% of GPs, that’s around one a month.”

With reporting from Órla Ryan

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Sean Murray

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