HSE confirms termination services at Cavan General

A prayer protest at the entrance to Cavan General Hospital will take place next Sunday at 3pm on Sunday, January 28, by members of the Choose Life Cavan branch, ahead of the provision of termination of pregnancy services at the facility this year.

The aim of the event is to highlight to Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly; local politicians and HSE management that the group objects “vehemently” to the plans.

Cavan and South Tipperary General Hospital in Clonmel are the only two maternity hospitals in the country where termination of pregnancy services are still not available to women.

In a statement to The Anglo-Celt this week, the HSE said: “Currently there are 17 maternity hospitals providing early - under 12 weeks - termination of pregnancy services. The remaining two hospitals, Cavan and Clonmel, will begin service provision in 2024.”

However, the spokesperson could not give an exact date as to when service provision would commence locally.

Previously, it was reported that consultants at Cavan General had written to the then Minister for Health stating an objection to their involvement in providing terminations. A recruitment process to appoint medical practitioners to carry out terminations at the local acute hospital facility ended with a shortlisting of candidates in December 2022, and interviews in January 2023.

The Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act was signed into law in September 2018, enabling greater access to termination of pregnancy services from January 1, 2019. Prior to this, the termination of pregnancy could only be performed if a risk to life of the mother could be established.

2022 saw the highest number (116) of women with addresses in Cavan terminate pregnancies in any given year since the eighth amendment was repealed in 2018. Liam de Paor, chairperson of the Choose Life Cavan branch, quoted HSE statistics on terminations this week, which indicate that 6,666 babies were aborted in 2019; 6,577 in 2020; and 6,700 pregnancies were ended in 2021.

A HSE reply to a parliamentary question from Carol Nolan TD revealed recently that €1.5M has been spent on ‘combined termination procedure and aftercare’, meaning the provision of an abortion from June to January 2023. €300 is paid by the HSE’s primary care reimbursement scheme for this category of abortions performed, therefore, it’s estimated that 5,052 abortions were carried out in the first six months of 2023.

All of this comes as the Oireachtas Health Committee considers a review of the legislation, which has made a number of recommendations, including the removal of a three-day waiting period to access medication for the termination of pregnancy.

Anna Donoghue, secretary of Choose Life Cavan, said the group has hired a barrister - Ben O’Flynn BL - to establish the rights of employees who refuse to carry out terminations or work where support services are provided. This, she added, will focus on the premise of ‘conscientious objection’ - the refusal to perform a legal role or responsibility because of personal beliefs.