A “momentous day” but not one for “jubilation” is how Health Minister Simon Harris has described the availability of abortion services from today.
“What we will see is not jubilation because abortion is never a happy occasion for any woman or her partner,” he said.
Some 165 GPs have signed up to provide an abortion service and over 100 have given their details to a 24/7 helpline that opened at midnight, the minister confirmed.
He said there would be many locations across the country where women could access an abortion service.
However Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, said despite the legalising of abortion in Ireland it remained “gravely morally wrong”.
Moreover, no-one should be forced to refer women to others for an abortion, against their conscience, he said.
In his New Year’s message, the Archbishop said to co-operate in abortion “by supporting it directly or indirectly, either as an individual act or as a social policy, shall always be gravely wrong”.
Any law which suggests otherwise has no moral force, he said, adding that it “has to be resisted and we must continue to call and work diligently for its limitation, amendment and repeal”.
The Archbishop said no-one should be forced, against their conscience, to participate in abortion or to refer patients to others for abortion.
He said he would “encourage the development and ongoing formation of pro-life support teams in every pastoral area throughout the country”.
Meanwhile, Mr Harris said while it would take time for the abortion service to fully evolve and embed, the situation for women would be “so much better” than it had been.
Mr Harris said about 80% of terminations would take place in the community and he was satisfied there were enough doctors to start providing the service.
He expected that more hospitals would begin to provide an abortion service as the year progressed.
Mr Harris also said that providing vending machines with free condoms was an option being considered by his department.
He had provided funding to the HSE to increase the availability of condoms in 2019.
My department and the HSE will now do some reasearch on how best to distribute them
Mr Harris also said €1m was being provided in 2019 to begin subsidising the cost of in vitro fertilisation (IVF).
Meanwhile, the HSE reported a 34% decrease in the number of people on trolleys in acute hospitals yesterday.
According to the health authority, there were 224 patients on trolleys in EDs waiting to be admitted, compared to 338 on the same day last year.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation had counted 357 admitted patients waiting for beds yesterday, with 228 waiting in the ED while 129 were in wards elsewhere in the hospital.
Mr Harris, who attended the meeting of the HSE’s Winter Oversight Group, said a lower rate of flu and the investment in home care packages had contributed to the reduction in numbers.
Mr Harris rejected claims that “Winter Ready Clinics” were not operating.