"People spoke & want women to be cared for." - Simon Harris criticises opt-in provision of NAGP 4 years ago

"People spoke & want women to be cared for." - Simon Harris criticises opt-in provision of NAGP

"The idea of a woman in crisis sitting in front of her doctor and her doctor refusing to refer flies in face of care and compassion and is not reflective of doctors I know."

Health Minister Simon Harris has criticised the stance of the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) in respect of a motion they passed recently regarding the provision of abortion services.

Advertisement

The NAGP, whose national executive is fronted by eight male GPs, held an emergency meeting to discuss the planned abortion legislation on Saturday.

The organisation which boasts a commitment to the "best practice within the primary care sector", passed a motion calling for an "opt-in" provision for health professionals to provide abortion services, based on the doctor's own beliefs.

This, essentially, would mean that should a woman come forward to request an abortion, the onward referral of a patient is totally up to their doctor and is therefore not compulsory.

Passed at the EGM, were the following motions.

Advertisement
  • "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."

Chairman of the NAGP Dr Andrew Jordan spoke about the provision on Morning Ireland on Monday, stating that abortion services will be provided at both family planning clinics and at specific GP surgeries around the country.

When asked what would happen if a woman came to a doctor who did not agree with abortion on a moral stance, Jordan said that the woman would not be left stranded and would find elsewhere to obtain the services needed.

“She will know in advance where the service is provided.”

Advertisement

He then went on to confirm that conscientious objection and referral of this ilk is currently the norm in New Zealand, a country he feels approaches this situation correctly. He called on the Irish Government to investigate the country's legal literature regarding abortion services, claiming that a happy medium could be sought.

Following the news of the NAGP meeting, Simon Harris took to Twitter to express his feelings on the controversial matter.

Advertisement

"Doctors will always be able to opt out and conscientious objection is a long standing principle in medicine and one which will be respected in new law but we Repealed the 8th so we could care for women in our own country and that duty of care in terms of referral will definitely apply," he wrote.

The Minister for Health then took to Twitter following the programme's airing to share his feelings on the matter, stating that refusal of referrals in line with the provision "is not reflective of doctors" he knows.

The expected abortion legislation will allow for terminations without restriction for up to 12 weeks of gestation, and in very limited circumstances thereafter, such as when the mother’s life is at risk.

Advertisement

It's believed that the majority of these cases will be carried out by medical termination, i.e. the use of pills.

Following the referendum's result, Doctors for Choice, a group of medical professionals who supported the repealing of the Eighth Amendment, posted a press release to Facebook stating their belief that “it is entirely possible, and preferred, that a doctor-led service can be established in Ireland."

"The numbers make this clear," they said.

"If only 100 of the approximated 2,500 general practitioners in Ireland were willing to provide this service, each GP would deal with 26 requests a year, that’s one every two weeks," the statement read.

"If 400 GPs were willing to provide this healthcare service, they would see an average of six to seven per year.

“We recognise that some GP’s are conscientious objectors to providing this service. As in other jurisdictions, the Medical Council will give guidance to these doctors about accommodating their objections when women in crisis pregnancy attend them for care.”