GPs walk out of meeting about implementing abortion services

Ciara O'Loughlin

50 out of over 100 GPs walked out of the meeting about the implementation of abortion services. Some were highly vocal during the referendum on the issue. Credit: Tony Gavin

Between 40 to 50 GPs walked out of a meeting held by the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) on December 1st to discuss the abortion services.

A row broke out at the meeting between doctors over the Government’s proposed abortion law. According to Dr. Kristen Fuller, one of the GP’s who walked out of the meeting,
hundreds of GPs do not believe that general practice is the appropriate setting to deliver abortion services.

She said that they have a “lack of training and availability of ultrasound, and delivering on genuine freedom of conscience protections for doctors who don’t want to be involved in
overseeing abortions taking place”.

However, in a statement following the meeting Dr Tony Cox, medical director for the ICGP, said that 250 members stayed for a meaningful debate on the provision of termination of
pregnancy services by GPs.

“A serious crisis now exists that the Government cannot ignore regarding the rollout of GP- led abortion services,” said the ICGP.

From January 1st, 2019 abortion services will be imposed on General Practice in Ireland.

According to the ICGP, the first time GPs heard of this was from an announcement by Simon Harris on the radio.

“Doctors have a right to conscientious objection but women also have a right to healthcare. The law on abortion is changing; the law on conscientious objection is not changing,” said
Minister for Health Simon Harris.

“If you are saying to me that a woman who goes to her GP in crisis; looking for help and looking for a service that is legally available in our country and that that woman should be
shown the door or given the cold shoulder that is not conscientious objection" he added.

There has been growing concern that the date of January 1st, 2019 will not be met. However, the Department of Health has told the HSE to ensure that abortion services will be available
in all 19 maternity units from January 1 st .

The Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy Bill will return before the Dáil in the next week and TD’s are expected to debate on issues such as conscientious objection.

The ICGP wish to hold a second EGM which would debate a change that would allow doctors who do not wish to perform an abortion refer their patient to another doctor. Simon Harris said that its “okay” for doctors to have different views about abortion but that “the people have spoken and the campaign is over”.

Ciara O’Loughlin

Image Credit: Tony Gavin