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Abortion education group raises ‘unrealistic timeframe’ concerns

Minister for Health Simon Harris has agreed to meet with the group to discuss the model of care for the delivery of abortion services.

The Government plans to pass abortion legislation in early autumn and to provide abortion services from January 2019. But the group has “serious concerns that this is an unrealistic timeframe”.

Cork GP and START member Dr Mike Thompson said the timeline was “very ambitious, particularly for the hospital sector”.

“We have to do this right and if we do it right, we could offer a world-class solution. But this requires resources and training,” Dr Thompson said.

He called for the establishment of a 24-hour telephone line staffed by midwives for women seeking abortion services, which, he said, is offered in other jurisdictions where abortion is legal.

GPs who wish to opt-in to provide abortion services, he said, would most likely deal with patients less than nine weeks’ pregnant, while women with gestations between nine and 12 weeks would go to hospital for a procedure.

Around 4,000 Irish women travelled abroad last year for an abortion and 3 per cent of cases can become complicated. In such cases, women will seek secondary hospital care, Dr Thompson stated. He said the service “won’t be onerous” if enough GPs sign up to it but warned that if a low fee was offered, “GPs on the fence won’t get involved”.

The group has held several meetings to date and at its most recent meeting, discussions on post-abortion contraception, complications, STI treatment and anti-D took place.

Guidelines for healthcare professionals are currently being devised and the Medical Council is to review its Guide to Professional Conduct and Ethics.

Established in Cork following the repeal of the Eighth Amendment, the group is made up of 75 members, including GPs, obstetricians and psychiatrists.

With a strong focus on education, the group started out as Cork Doctors for Choice in the run-up to the referendum but renamed to START after the referendum was passed.

Meanwhile, GP Dr Michael McConville has written to newly-elected Medical Council President Dr Rita Doyle, asking her to prevent the Council “enforcing bad law” regarding the highly emotive issue of conscientious objection.

Dr McConville said he is concerned about the manner in which the Government has decided to deal with the matter of conscientious objection to abortion and warned “the Medical Council should be aware of the gravity of this matter so that they may avoid the inadvertent consequence of the incidental drawing of itself into the enforcement of the State’s intent”.

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