Three out of four GPs are in favour of “limited abortion” becoming legal in Ireland, while medical opinion on whether travelling abroad for the procedure risks a woman’s health is now split 40:60.
The findings are contained in a survey on the medical profession’s view of the complex issue, published as the possibility of abortion being made legal in Ireland in very restricted circumstances was debated in the Dáil.
According to the study of 500 GPs and 244 GP registrars throughout Ireland, reported by the Medical Independent, 75% of doctors believe abortion should take place in limited circumstances.
These include major foetal abnormalities, serious maternal illness where the mother’s life is in danger, and rape.
The study found 11% of the doctors involved knew of a patient who had taken an illegal medical abortifacient to induce an abortion, the majority of which were either sourced online or purchased illegally in this country.
The study also revealed 97% of GPs and 77% of GP registrars had been attended by a patient who has discussed abortion, while 45% of all those surveyed had seen cases such as this in the past six months.
Dr Mark Murphy, a GP trainee at Sligo General Hospital who co-authored the study, said a large number of doctors — many of whom do not agree with abortion — acknowledged there may also be detrimental health effects from travelling.
The survey findings support this claim, with four out of every 10 respondents agreeing that travel abroad may be pose a risk to the woman’s health — a 40:60 split on the issue.
The abortion views study was presented at a recent meeting of the Association of University Departments of General Practice in Ireland, which was held at the Royal College of Surgeons.
The Dáil debate on whether abortion should be made legal in Ireland under certain circumstances was defeated on Thursday after a two-day discussion.
The draft legislation, put forward by Socialist Party TD Clare Daly, was rejected by 111 votes to 20 after calls for the removal of the party whip were turned down.
All Government and Fianna Fáil TDs who voted were against the legislation. Sinn Féin and 10 independent or other party TDs voted in favour.
Three Labour and 19 Fine Gael TDs were absent from the vote.
The issue was voted down after Health Minister James Reilly said on Wednesday that the bill was, in his view, “lacking in certain legal respects”.
The issue is due to be discussed further by a Government expert group, which will report its findings in July, meaning it is unlikely a new draft bill will be discussed before the autumn Dáil term.
The group is chaired by Honorary Justice Mr Sean Ryan.
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