Other nations now looking to Ireland’s abortion model

Dr Mike Thompson.

Emergency medical abortion has embedded well in the community and the typical woman seeking the service has a family that is complete.

That’s according to Mike Thompson, GP and founding member of Start, the Southern Taskgroup on Abortion and Reproductive Topics (START), writing in today’s Irish Examiner, 100 days into the introduction of an abortion service in Ireland.

Dr Thompson, said emergency medical abortion (EMA) “is now an accepted, available, service from Irish doctors”.

In fact the service is operating so well, that Scandinavian countries, which traditionally had the highest rate of community EMA, are now looking at the Irish model, he said.

Dr Thompson said:

Obstetrician/gynaecologist colleagues from all over the world are watching. I think if you were reinventing the wheel [in relation to abortion services], it’s how you would do it.

He said more than 80% of EMAs were being catered for in the community and that predictions that hospitals would be overwhelmed by demand had not come to pass.

He said the typical woman presenting to his surgery arrived with her partner very early in the pregnancy and had a family that was complete.

Dr Thompson said providing a service in GP surgeries was preferable to readily identifiable “silos of care where women are shamed”.

“Our waiting room is egalitarian,” Dr Thompson said, “no-one knows why a woman is sitting in my waiting room.”

Dr Thompson said Start, which has more than 250 members, including 20 consultant obstetricians/gynaecologists, 10 midwives and the remainder, GPs, will wind down shortly.

He said more than 300 GPs are now signed up to provide an abortion service and that no county was without it, albeit some GPs are providing it to their own patients only, rather than universally.

Start is calling for the end of the three-day delay before medication can be dispensed “the period should be shortened, or optional”, Dr Thompson said.

Start is also calling on the HSE to appoint a clinical lead in Termination of Pregnancy (TOP) with responsibility for governance, audit and reporting.

Health Minister Simon Harris told the health committee yesterday that the “indications” were “that services are working well, although there are still a number of counties without a GP service”.

All hospitals are providing terminations in emergency situations but just half are providing terminations up to 12 weeks.

Under legislation, a notification of each termination of pregnancy carried out must be notified to the health minister. Mr Harris said he is “getting to the point” where this information will be laid before the Dáil.

The law says he must prepare a report on the notifications received in a given year not later than June 30 the following year.

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