Women delay abortions until January to use service here

Several women in crisis pregnancies are delaying going to a UK clinic and are contacting doctors here to make appointments for a medical abortion in early January, it emerged yesterday.

The news from GPs comes as many family doctors and maternity hospitals warn they will not be ready to start the service in just three weeks and the gaps could put women who have a termination at risk.

A number of GPs say they are already getting calls from women seeking a termination who are holding out until January in the belief the free service will be ready to start.

This delay may itself lead to complications for some of these women, because abortions are safest if they are carried out as early as possible in a pregnancy.

Health Minster Simon Harris, who wants the service to start in January, will meet medical groups today. He said he is “eager to hear their concerns” directly and he will not “shirk his responsibility in responding appropriately. But I also want to hear solutions”.

“I must continuously stress that 12 women find themselves in crisis pregnancies every day in this country. Every day this service is not in place is a lost opportunity to care for women at home,” he said.

The strongest warning has come in a letter to Mr Harris from Dr John O’Brien, president of the Irish College of General Practitioners, who cautioned against pushing out the service from January 1.

He said if the proper supports are not finalised by then “a high quality, patient-centred service is jeopardised and patient care will be compromised”.

“All GPs must be provided with clarification and further details, for example on the My Options 24-hour helpline,” he said. This will provide direction to a woman who wants the name of a participating GP.

Cork University Hospital obstetrician Dr Keelin O’Donoghue said yesterday there has so far been a fundamental failure to recognise the complexities involved in extending abortion services in maternity hospitals.

“Our role is not to stand idly by as plans for a new service are rushed through with no regard for safety, best practice or quality of care,” she said.

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