Fears rise that abortion rollout will be delayed by Dáil debates

The abortion legislation faces further debate at report stage in the Dáil next week, piling pressure on the January deadline for services.

The legislation is making its way through the Houses of the Oireachtas and despite hopes that the report stage would conclude last night after three days of debate it will return to the Dáil floor next week.

Some 65 amendments have been proposed to the legislation, sparking lengthy debate.

A number of amendments were defeated last night including one proposing that abortions are not sought on grounds of race, sex or disability and another provision seeking pain relief to be administered to a foetus in the womb ahead of a termination.

There were heated scenes in the Dáil amid accusations of filibustering.

Dublin West TD Ruth Coppinger accused a group of pro-life TDs of trying to delay the legislation, urging that efforts be made to conclude the debate as quickly as possible.

“There’s women travelling… people have had it up to here and two-thirds of the people voted and that mandate has to be respected,” she said.

The timeline for the passage of the legislation requires the bill to go to the Seanad before the Christmas break.

Meanwhile, the initial training of GPs in how to deliver medical abortions will not begin until the middle of December.

The Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) confirmed it will start training and it will continue throughout next year.

The timing raises new concerns about the readiness of the health service.

A spokeswoman for the ICGP said the training related to understanding of medications and checking for potential complications.

The issue of how prepared the service is will be discussed this weekend at an extraordinary general meeting of the ICGP, the representative professional organisation on education, training and standards in general practice.

GPs will provide medical abortions to women up to nine weeks of pregnancy. A key measures to support the new service will be a 24-hour helpline as part of an “opt-in” service.

“A woman who wishes to access abortion services can contact a 24-hour helpline with suitably qualified staff who can direct her to providers who have opted in, as well as provide access to non-directive counselling and provide clinical triage for complications.

“The woman will be able to choose from three options: access to non-directive counselling; information on how to access services, or clinical triage of complications.”

The college said its GP members have expressed concerns that providing this service would put their practices under significant workload pressures and that the necessary resources may not be provided.

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