Nine of Ireland’s maternity units do not offer abortion

Róisín Phelan

Nine of Ireland’s 19 maternity hospitals do not offer abortion services. 

These hospitals are, Kerry General Hospital, St.Luke’s General Hospital, Wexford General Hospital, Letterkenny General Hospital, Mayo General Hospital, Portiuncula Hospital, Sligo General Hospital, Cavan/Monaghan Hospital Group and Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise. 

Some abortion services can be offered by general practitioners (GP), but in some later stage terminations, surgical procedures in a hospital are required.

The HSE website tells people who are looking for an abortion to go to, a GP surgery that provides abortion services, a family planning clinic that provides abortion services, a women’s health clinic that provides abortion services, or a hospital that provides abortion services.

Clarifying that not all GP’s family planning clinics, women’s health clinics and hospitals provide abortion services. 

The HSE states that not all doctors provide abortion services, as they are not required to by law. This may be because they conscientiously object to it. 

This is “when medical staff refuse to take part in a procedure if it goes against their religious or moral beliefs”

The HSE also states that they may not provide abortion services for other reasons but does not specify what these reasons are. 

It suggests, “if your doctor isn’t helpful, try to see another one.”

Through the MyOptions.ie page, women can access information around abortion services, and if they choose to terminate their pregnancy, they will be forwarded onto a doctor who has “opted-in”

Doctors who have “opted-in” can be GPs, or doctors in hospitals who wish to provide abortion services.

They could also be forwarded onto a maternity hospital where staff have “opted-in”. But they will not be forwarded on to maternity hospitals where staff have not opted-in. 

For example, the National Maternity Hospital is taking referrals from General Practitioners and Community based services such as the Irish Family Planning Association in its catchment area, Wicklow, South Dublin and Kildare. 

Under Medical Council guidelines, if a doctor has not opted-in and does not want to treat the patient, they are required to transfer the care of the patient to a colleague. 

The legislation says, “a person who has a conscientious objection shall, as soon as may be, make such arrangements for the transfer of care of the pregnant woman concerned as may be necessary to enable the woman to avail of the termination of pregnancy concerned”.

The issue that could arise from this is, if a large number of doctors in one area have to refer patients to other doctors then those patients could face waiting lists or be forced to travel to other parts of the country to receive treatment.

Chair of DCU Femsoc, Eimer Kelly spoke to The College View and said: “I think any barrier to someone’s access to a medical procedure such as an abortion is a direct violation of human rights, particularly if it’s in the name of a Catholic ethos.”

Róisín Phelan

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