Rushing to have terminations available in January 'is unsafe'

The rush to have the new abortion service in place by January is “unacceptable and unsafe,” a GP organisation has warned.

Dr Maitiú Ó Tuathail, president of the National Association of General Practitioners, said GPs will not be “threatened or intimidated” by Health Minister Simon Harris into providing the service when they do not feel they are ready.

“Proper preparation, both clinical and medical council guidelines and clear support services are essential, before such services come into effect,” he said.

His comments came as the HSE reported that it is receiving a “steady return of application forms from GPs and the number is increasing on a daily basis”.

It is yet unclear what number of GPs, and their geographic spread, will be available if the service is triggered on January 1.

Some maternity hospitals have also indicated they will not be fully prepared although the National Maternity Hospital said it will provide terminations to women seeking the procedure after a fatal foetal abnormality diagnosis.

Once the legislation allowing for the extension of abortion, including unrestricted terminations up to 12 weeks of pregnancy, is in place the HSE is planning a publicity campaign. It will highlight the 24/7 phone line which women who want to access an abortion can ring to find out their nearest provider.

However, Dr Ó Tuathail said many GPs are still reluctant to participate until they are satisfied supports such as same-day access to ultrasound is available.

Work on clinical guidelines – to be given to doctors and hospitals, the step-by-step advice on abortion and the prevention of complications – are still being finalised.

“The minister must allow the time required to ensure that all services are ready, to provide the safe and compassionate service that the women of Ireland have long waited for,” he said.

The minister said the full range of services will not be available in all areas from January 1 and it will evolve.

He said he was heartened to hear the HSE say that a number of GPs are signing up to provide the service from January 1.

A spokeswoman for the GP training body, the Irish College of General Practitioners, said it is working with the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists on the final clinical guidelines on abortion which are close to completion.

She said it is expected that these guidelines will be available to all doctors within days.

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