Almost a year since abortion services were legalised in Ireland just over 300 GPs have agreed to carry out the procedure, according to new figures.
The procedure known as, Termination of Pregnancy (TOP), was signed into law, by President Michael D Higgins, and introduced on January 1 this year.
At the start of this month, 347 GPs had signed up to provide the service. There are 3,500 GPs nationwide, a third of whom are women.
Under the Act, no medical practitioner, nurse or midwife is obliged to carry out or participate in carrying out a termination, to which they have a conscientious objection, except in an emergency situation.
However, a person who has a conscientious objection must make alternative arrangements for the transfer of care to enable the woman to access termination services as necessary.
A spokesperson for the HSE, which governs the provision of abortion services, said:
“There is a good geographic spread of GPs taking part, enough to meet the needs of people who may need to access the service. To date 347 GPs have signed up to provide abortion services.”
Sligo is the only county which does not have a GP providing such services, according to the HSE.
The spokesperson refused to be drawn on why some hospitals such as St Luke's General Hospital in Kilkenny, which serves the counties of Carlow and Kilkenny, which have a combined population of 157,000, continues to not provide such services.
Women, living in Carlow or Kilkenny, who need to avail of TOPs have to travel to University Hospital Waterford (UHW) or Dublin for terminations.
Those living in Kilkenny would have a 52 kilometre drive for such services to be accessed in their nearest hospital of UHW while women in Carlow have a 80km journey.
All maternity hospitals in the country are providing the service.
The spokesperson added: “In line with the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018, a primarily community-led service is being delivered by GPs in primary care settings and women’s health service providers, with appropriate access and care pathways to acute hospital services as required.
“All maternity hospitals are providing the following termination of pregnancy-related services such as managing complications arising from termination, providing appropriate care and supervision for women following a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality, and referral to the appropriate tertiary unit.”
The hospitals also provide appropriate care and supervision in cases where maternal health/life is at risk, and referral to the appropriate tertiary hospital.
The maternity units and hospitals providing abortion care in Dublin are; the National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street, Rotunda Hospital and The Coombe Women and Infants’ University Hospital.
Outside of the Capital the hospitals involved are Midland Regional Hospital Mullingar, Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital Drogheda, University Hospital Galway, Mayo University Hospital, Castlebar, University Maternity Hospital Limerick, Cork University Maternity Hospital and University Hospital Waterford
The HSE spokesperson continued: “Work is ongoing with the hospital groups to rollout the service in additional maternity hospitals. A national clinical lead for termination of pregnancy services will be appointed in the coming weeks.
“The clinical lead will support further implementation and the on-going provision of termination of pregnancy services”.
Several anti-abortion pickets were held throughout the year in Galway, Drogheda, Co Louth, Dublin and in Graiguenamanagh, Co Kilkenny.