'Momentous day' for Irish women as abortion services are rolled out

Health Minister Simon Harris said he is satisfied that the 165 GPs who signed up to provide abortion services are enough to meet demand.

Describing today as a “momentous day” for Irish women, Minister Harris believes 80pc of all terminations will take place in local communities.

Mr Harris said that the HSE, GPs and hospitals will now take an active role in supporting women in crisis pregnancy situations.

A new HSE freephone line will be staffed by trained professional counsellors from 9am today, along with a new information website, Myoptions.ie.

“I think it’s momentous that women and their partners who face situations like fatal foetal abnormalities will no longer have to travel abroad to access services,” he said. “Up until today, their options have been to travel or to go onto the internet for information – all that changes from [today].”

He added that the new helpline will be adequately staffed and that services will be “much better” than what was previously available to women.

“I know that the health plan is adequately staffed, I’m satisfied in that regard.

“About 165 GPs have so far signed up to provide the service and over 100 GPs have given their details to the helpline.

“This means that from [today] when a woman picks up the phone there will be many locations across the country where you can access this service.”

He accepted it will take time for these services to fully evolve and embed.

“We’re now living in a country that’s a little less judgmental, a little more compassionate and one that wants to mature as a nation,” he said.

Following last year’s referendum and subsequent legislative change, people can now access an abortion in Ireland under specific circumstances. Abortion care will be free of charge to people who need it.

Dr Peter Boylan, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, said that from today the Irish health service is ready to provide abortion services to people who need it.

“Clinical guidance and training has been provided and circulated to healthcare teams nationwide to assist practitioners in the clinical decision-making involved in providing abortion care.

“A lot of work has been done by people across our health service to prepare for this new service, with a sufficient number of GPs signed up and others continuing to do so.

“Services will be provided in GP practices and family planning services, and maternity units and hospitals across the country,” he said.

Speaking in Dublin yesterday at a briefing on the 2018/19 Winter Plan, Minister Harris welcomed the 34pc drop in the number of people waiting for beds on New Year’s Eve (223), compared to the same day last year.

He credited the decrease to a reduction in flu rates and investment in homecare packages.

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