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Sunday 10 December 2023 Dublin: 9°C

Moral objection or no time: Majority of GPs say they can't provide abortion services

Legislation on the provision of abortion has been debated by the Oireachtas health committee this week.

A SURVEY BY an organisation representing GPs in Ireland has found that the majority of GPs are not in a position to provide abortions due to limited resources or conscientious objections, among other issues.

In an online survey with over 3,500 members of the Irish College of General Practitioners, 32% said they will provide termination-of-pregnancy services.

The largest number, 43%, responded to say that they weren’t in position at this time to provide the services “due to concerns regarding capacity, resources or conscientious objection, but are willing to refer to another colleague”.

The final cohort indicates that they would not provide service and would prefer not to refer to a colleague: this was 25% of the ICGP membership.

The ICGP, the professional and training body for Irish GPs, said that no GPs should be required to provide termination-of-pregnancy services if they did not wish to.

The results were part of an online consultation aimed at guiding the development of clinical guidelines for the provision of abortion services. The online consultation process was carried out during August and September; there was a 26% participation rate in the online consultation process.

Legislation on the provision of abortion has been debated in front of the Oireachtas committee this week, where a number of amendments were suggested and discussed.

An amendment to make the burial or cremation of foetal remains mandatory was voted down; another suggestion was made to change the name of the bill from “The Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy” to “Access to Healthcare by Women Seeking Termination of Pregnancy”.

It’s expected that abortion services will be available from next year, once the legislation has been passed by the Dáil and health services have had time to prepare.

“Of those who do not wish to provide a service, resourcing and workload is a major concern,” said Dr Tony Cox, medical director of the ICGP.

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.”

“Both in the development of guidelines and in advocating for the necessary resources the
College’s primary concern is patient safety and quality of care,” Cox said.

The ICGP will hold an EGM on 2 December to discuss GPs providing abortion services.

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