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National Maternity Hospital to begin abortion services on 7 January

There were some concerns in recent weeks that hospitals would not be ready in time.

Image: Mark Stedman

THE NATIONAL MATERNITY Hospital will begin accepting referrals for abortion services from Monday, 7 January. 

In a new section on its website, titled ‘Unplanned Pregnancy Support Services‘, the hospital said it would take women from its catchment area of South Dublin, Wicklow and Kildare. 

Referrals will only be accepted from GPs or community-based services such as the Irish Family Planning Association and the Well Woman Clinic (full list here). 

Regulated abortion services have been legal in Ireland since President Michael D Higgins signed the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill into law on 20 December. 

Hospitals and GPs have been working with the HSE and the Department of Health since the May referendum – which saw the repeal of the Eighth Referendum in the Irish constitution – to a deadline of 1 January 2019 to provide abortion services. 

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There were some concerns in recent weeks that hospitals would not be ready in time, and there would be a shortage of doctors in the community willing to offer the service. The Irish Times reported last weekend that just nine maternity units, 145 GPs, the IFPA and Well Woman clinics would be ready from 1 January. 

However, speaking today Health Minister Simon Harris said the government has delivered on its commitment to ensure abortion services would be freely and safely available in Ireland from Monday. 

MyOptions.ie is live where people can get information about all of their options in a crisis pregnancy and the phone line will go live on 1 January. There will be enough GPs right across this country to make sure services can commence in January. So no longer will people have to get the boat or the plane, they will for the first time ever be able to avail of abortion services here in our own country.

“It is going to take time for the services to embed; and as Dr [Peter] Boylan said our services will continue to evolve and grow.”

It is now understood that 169 GPs have signed up to provide crisis pregnancy services to women. 

Where will abortions happen?

Terminations are legal up to 12 weeks of pregnancy. Most terminations up to nine weeks of pregnancy will take place in GP or women’s health clinics. 

For terminations up to nine weeks, a woman will have to visit her GP or clinic twice to ensure the three-day waiting period specified in the legislation is adhered to. A third visit will also be offered as part of the aftercare package. These medical terminations will see the woman use two medications – taken between 24 and 48 hours apart. 

All terminations after nine weeks pregnancy will take place in maternity hospitals, once the woman is referred from the clinic or GP she initially attended. 

A woman cannot attend a maternity unit to request a termination. She must have a referral from a GP or women’s health clinic. These terminations will, for the most part, involve a surgical procedure. 

Terminations of pregnancy will be free, under the public health service. However, according to the Department of Health, “additional medicines, such as analgesics and antibiotics will be subject to existing eligibility frameworks”.

“If a woman chooses to access the service privately she will have to pay the full cost associated with the procedure.”

Other hospitals which have committed to providing services as soon as possible include the Rotunda, Dublin; Cork University Maternity Hospital; University Maternity Hospital, Limerick; University Hospital Galway; Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda; Mayo University Hospital; Midland Regional Hospital, Mullingar and University Hospital Waterford.

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