Doctors Strongly Opposed to Becoming Abortionists
A group representing over 2,000 GPs has called on the Minister for Health not to try to compel unwilling doctors to provide abortions and to include an “opt-in” provision for those doctors wishing to provide abortion services.
The National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) held an emergency general meeting in Portlaoise, to discuss the complex issues that may arise for women, following the repeal of the Eighth Amendment.
The following motions were passed at the EGM:
“The NAGP calls on the Minister for Health to clarify that he does not intend, through legislation, to make a termination of pregnancy service part of routine General Practice.”
“The NAGP calls on the Minister for Health to ensure an ‘opt-in’ provision for doctors who wish to provide a termination of pregnancy service and that he will commit to providing the appropriate resources to those providers enabling a safe and effective service.”
“Motion that the NAGP should advocate for conscientious objection without obligation to refer. We specifically refer to the Contraceptive Sterilisation Abortion 1977 NZ ACT Sect. 46. We ask that a similar section be inserted into the proposed legislation.”
President of the NAGP, Dr Maitiu O’Tuathail said he was disappointed that the Department of Health has not engaged with ordinary GPs to date on this issue. “The NAGP, as the largest body representing GPs, wishes to be fully involved so as to inform potential legislation and service delivery in a Doctor led service.”
Dr O’Tuathail, who describes himself as “pro-choice” and says he voted Yes in the abortion referendum, strongly defended the right of his pro-life colleagues not to be compelled to violate their consciences.
Writing on The Journal website, Dr O’Tuathail said that no member of society, “whether a doctor or not, should be forced to do anything they do not want to do. To threaten them with jail on the grounds of conscientious objection is wrong on many levels.”
“There are workable solutions to this challenge for example the legislation on conscientious objection in New Zealand, which respects the views of all.”
He said that the majority of GPs in Ireland prefer an-opt in service, and that this has been confirmed in three polls of GPs to date. “We also know that 20% of GPs would be willing to provide an abortion service when required. This is enough to provide a service to the women of Ireland in their own locality. We must respect the right of the remaining 80% who do not want to provide this service, the vast majority of whom will facilitate their patients through onwards referral to those who will.”
“Medical abortion is not part of routine general practice,” Dr O’Tuathail continued. “85% of GPs are of this opinion. This has again been replicated in several polls consistently. By equating abortion to the management of asthma, heart disease or diabetes people are being disingenuous and I believe disrespectful to women.”
Minister for Health Simon Harris criticised the position of the National Association of General Practitioners, saying that a “duty of care” in terms of referral “will definitely apply.” In a post on Twitter, Minister Harris said, “The idea of a woman in crisis sitting in front of her doctor & her doctor refusing to refer flies in face of care & compassion.”
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar also said that while GPs can have a conscientious objection to providing medical abortions, they will be obliged to refer a woman to a doctor who is willing to perform an abortion.
However, medical sources say the government cannot afford to bring forward legislation which is not workable. It is likely that the law will have to include practical measures to recognise the potential for GPs to object to referral. This could lead to establishment of a public list of GPs registered to provide medical abortions. Mr Varadkar said if around 60 GPs delivered the service it would be enough.
Meanwhile, Darragh O’Loughlin, secretary general of the Irish Pharmacy Union, has confirmed that he has written to Minister Harris asking him to extend the right of conscientious objection to pharmacists who may not want to dispense abortion pills. “It is essential," he said, “that such provisions be extended to all healthcare professionals, including pharmacists, and not only to medical practitioners in order to ensure that individual practitioners would not be compelled to participate in a procedure to which they have fundamental religious or ethical objections.”
Breaking News. June 9. Irish Independent. June 12. The Journal. June 13. The Journal. June 11.