Welcome for Taoiseach's clarification on GPs rights to conscientiously object over abortion services

Welcome for Taoiseach's clarification on GPs rights to conscientiously object over abortion services
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar TD arrivres for an hounoring of Iar-Thaoiseach, Enda Kenny TD, by European Movement Ireland with its European of the Year award.

Update - 5.21pm The President of the National Association of GPs, Dr Maitiu O’Tuathail has welcomed clarification from the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar today about the provision of an opt-in service in relation to GPs and termination of pregnancy.

Dr O'Tuathail said "that the NAGP is now looking forward to engaging with the Government on proposed legislation and the delivery of services and all issues that arise."

It follows the NAGP extraordinary general meeting last Saturday, which sought clarity from Government on an “opt-in basis” for services.

At the EGM, there was a long, detailed and informed debate on how to best provide this service, given the complex issues that require clarification and resolution.

Dr O’Tuathail said at the meeting on Saturday: “We must now advocate for the women of Ireland to ensure they receive the respectful, safe and supportive service that they deserve. This process must not be rushed, we must do this correctly from the outset.”

Concerns were raised by GPs at the meeting in relation to:

  • Proper training & diagnostic supports for GPs who wish to provide services.
  • The provision of termination of pregnancy services should be an opt-in service.
  • The distinction of an opt-in for GPs was clarified to mean, that when a GP opts-in, he or she is fully supported to provide a termination of pregnancy service of the highest safest standards.
  • It was also made clear that once any new legislation is passed, revised ethical guidance will be needed for doctors, from the Medical Council, on all the issues that arise, including conscientious objection and onward referral of patients.

Earlier: The Taoiseach has said doctors who refuse to refer women to medics providing abortions will not be tolerated once the service is rolled-out.

Leo Varadkar said he would not allow doctors to put across a message of "you are on your own love" to women and they will be required to refer on to those providing the service.

It comes as the National Association of General Practitioners passed motions calling for an "opt-in" system for termination services during an emergency meeting at the weekend and said that onward referral of a patient should not be compulsory.

Mr Varadkar has said he believes there will be no difficulties with an opt-in system as only around 60 GPs will be required.

The Taoiseach said: "If you think about it, roughly 4,000 women every year in Ireland choose to end their pregnancies. That works out at about 12 terminations a day of which six can be done through medical abortion, that is taking the abortion pill.

"That is about six a day that can be done in a primary care setting without having to go to a hospital. There are 4,000 GPs in the country so we don’t need 4,000 GPs to provide this service.

I am not sure we even need more than 50 or 60 quite frankly when you consider that only around six women a day will seek the service. So it will certainly be opt-in.

Speaking in Dublin this morning, Mr Varadkar added: "No GP will be required to provide the service so we are very happy to accept the principle that it will be opt-in and indeed the legislation will provide for GPs to have a conscientious objection.

"But what we can’t allow is this suggestion that a GP who does not provide the service will then refuse to refer their patient on to somebody who would.

"Because essentially that is the equivalent of 'you are on your own love' and we are not going to have that in Ireland any more."

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