Three out of every four GPs and hospital consultants are in favour of allowing unrestricted access to abortion up to 12 weeks gestation, the most substantial survey of medics on the issue to date has found.
A poll of almost 400 doctors compiled as Health Minister Simon Harris confirmed doctors can conscientiously object to performing abortions if the referendum is passed has made the conclusion, underlining a strong medical support for a more liberal abortion regime.
The survey, to be published in tomorrow’s edition of Ireland’s longest-running medical trade newspaper the Irish Medical Times, asked all readers of the GP and consultant-focussed publication if they support or oppose the potential 12-week law due to be introduced if the Eighth Amendment is removed.
Out of 388 respondents, a total of 285, or 73%, said they are in favour of the divisive new rule, while 96, or 25%, said they are opposed, with just seven survey takers, or 2%, saying they have no view on the matter. While the poll did not include responses from all 2,500 GPs and a similar number of consultants in Ireland, it is the most substantial examination of doctors’ 12-week abortion views to date.
Irish Medical Times editor Lloyd Mudiwa said the results “would seem to suggest that at this point in time a significant majority of medical practitioners who participated in our poll support the recommendation of the committee, and that doctors aren’t necessarily more conservative than the general public, at least when it comes to this issue”.
The poll results emerged days after one of Ireland’s three GP representative groups, the National Association of General Practitioners, said some GPs may be opposed to performing abortions and hit out at the lack of consultation by the Department of Health with doctors on a potential new GP-led abortion service.
In response, Simon Harris told RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland on Tuesday that GPs will be able to conscientiously object to performing abortions based on their personal views — but must provide a list of other nearby doctors who will perform the procedure if they do so.
The conscientious objection issue came into stark Dáil focus yesterday, with Solidarity-People Before Profit TD Ruth Coppinger telling Taoiseach Leo Varadkar about a woman called ‘Sarah’ who rang Cork’s Red FM earlier this week to speak about how she was raped and later refused the morning after pill.
Mr Varadkar responded by saying ‘Sarah’ “should make a complaint to the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland” over what happened and said the committee did not pluck the 12-week rule “out of the air”, adding “it makes sense”.
Meanwhile, HSE director general Tony O’Brien has written to Sinn Féin health spokeswoman Louise O’Reilly to confirm the HSE will remain impartial during the referendum after one senior doctor sent a letter on HSE-headed note paper to TDs warning against liberalising Ireland’s abortion laws.
As reported in yesterday’s Irish Examiner, a senior member of the HSE’s child adolescent and mental health services in North Dublin wrote to TDs recently saying legalising abortion will “bring with it a multitude of harmful effects on all concerned” before making a series of unsubstantiated claims.
In a formal letter responding to Ms O’Reilly — one of the TDs who got the correspondence — last night, Mr O’Brien said what happened was “wholly unacceptable”, that he has told the official to “cease and desist”, and stressed the HSE “will remain completely impartial”.
A large Pro-Life Campaign poster saying abortion is akin to child abuse placed outside Leinster House yesterday was also last night heavily criticised by Social Democrats political director Anne Marie McNally, who said she has complained to gardaí over the image as it is making people “walk past a huge banner depicting the bloodied and bruised face of a child”.