& Seamus Enright
Just one GP in County Cavan is signed up, so far, to provide abortion services to women in the early stages of pregnancy, The Anglo-Celt has learned.
Some 200 out of 3,500 GPs nationally had registered to provide the services by the end of last week. Of those, there is just one in County Cavan, one in Monaghan and none, to date, in neighbouring counties Longford and Leitrim.
The names and addresses of the GPs are not being published or publicised, but are being given to women who contact the ‘My Options’ free helpline [1800-828-010] in confidence.
According to the HSE, however, there has been a “steady stream” of contacts from women seeking abortion services since termination of pregnancy became legal for the first time in Ireland on January 1.
However, more GPs and clinics are signing up daily to provide abortion services.
GPs are legally entitled to provide medical (pills) abortions up to nine weeks; while abortions for women with a pregnancy between nine and 12 weeks, those with fatal foetal abnormalities and other limited circumstances, are dealt with surgically by the maternity units.
Cavan General Hospital is not amongst the nine maternity hospitals that were ready to perform the procedure ‘on demand’ by January 1.
Obstetricians at Cavan General Hospital are understood to have written to the Department of Health expressing their concerns in relation to facilities and staffing if abortion services are to be introduced locally. A request for a copy of the letter has been sought from the HSE by The Anglo-Celt.
The closest maternity hospitals providing the services as per the new legislation include: Midland Regional Hospital, Mullingar; Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda; the National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street; and the Rotunda Hospital.
Meanwhile, following anti-abortion protests outside Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda on Monday, there have been renewed calls for the introduction of ‘exclusion zones’ to ban such protests and harassment. A spokesperson for the Department of Health has said that the Minister for Health has listed ‘safe access zones’ as a legislative priority for the next Dáil term.
The Anglo-Celt has learned that some GPs are frustrated at the lack of information provided thus far in terms of how, and where the services can be accessed for their patients; while other practices will not co-operate with referrals on ‘conscientious’ grounds.