A GP who specialises in women’s sexual and reproductive health has called on the government to fund free contraception for all women - and not just a free abortion service.
Dr Deirdre Lundy, GP expert and educator in sexual health and reproductive health, said it was counterproductive to fund one service and not the other but that it probably boiled down to money.
“Of course, money is going to be a big issue. It is cheaper to do circa 8,000 abortions annually than to provide free contraception,” Dr Lundy said.
The irony was making contraception universally free of charge could reduce the number of crisis pregnancies that can lead to abortion, she said.
“What is the point in one but not the other?”
Dr Lundy, who has worked in Family Planning Clinics and who runs reproductive health clinics in a number of Dublin hospitals, took part at the weekend in the first ICGP skills training day for GPs who are preparing to provide an abortion service from January 1.
Doctors who sign up to providing an abortion service will receive a total fee of €450 covering three visits – €150 to cover the initial consultation and a further €300 for carrying out the termination procedure and the delivery of aftercare.
Dr Lundy said attendance at the meeting was “maxed out” and that reports were that “three or four times the number had wanted to attend”. She said multiple training days were planned around the country.
She said the January 1 deadline was "a little unrealistic” as the legislation that allows for the introduction of abortion services only passed all stages of the Oireachtas last Thursday. However, she said there were "many committed providers" who would be ready, come New Year.
The legislation yet to be signed into law by President Michael D Higgins.
Dr Lundy said it was her understanding “only a handful of hospitals” had indicated readiness to take part in providing an abortion service from January 1.
Under the legislation, GPs can provide unrestricted medical abortion up to nine weeks of pregnancy. Maternity hospitals must provide medical abortions between nine and 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Dr Lundy said the January 1 deadline “couldn’t be worse” as Christmas was traditionally “the busiest time of the year for unintended pregnancies”, largely the upshot of office parties.
Separately, the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) has yet to publish clinical guidelines for the provision of abortion services. The ICGP is working with the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists on the new guidelines which are expected to be published shortly.