Irish doctors question readiness to introduce legal abortion

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Most physicians in the Republic of Ireland are unwilling to perform abortions despite the repeal of an amendment which legally protected the unborn, and many are also concerned about whether there are adequate preparations for the procedure.

"There are concerns about capacity and resourcing issues such as staffing, facilities, training," Dr. Mary Favier, vice president of the Irish College of General Practitioners, told the Oireachtas Health Committee Sept. 18, the same day the Irish president signed a bill formally repealing the Eighth Amendment.

"They are concerned about the potential lack of appropriate specialist support, the possibility of medical complications for their patients, what will be the public reaction to those who don't provide and those who do," the Irish News reported Favier stating.

"They have a fear of litigation, they wish to see an acknowledgement of conscientious objection and how to accommodate this in the clinical pathway but also an acknowledgement of conscientious commitment and how to support this."

Taoiseach Leo Varadker has said that Catholic hospitals will not be permitted to opt out of performing abortions, though individual medical professionals may.

The removal of the Eighth Amendment follows the decisive result of the national referendum held in May. Only one county, Donegal, voted to keep the amendment.

While it has not yet been determined under what circumstances abortion will become legal, the government is proposing that it be allowed throughout the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Legislation to this effect will be introduced by the government next month.

It is unknown when Ireland's first abortion facility will open, but Varadkar said this will likely be by 2019.

Favier noted to the health committee that "there are actually very few clinicians who are trained to deliver this care pathway unless they have received training outside of the jurisdiction," and Dr Peter Boylan, chair of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said that introducing abortion by 2019 would be "challenging".

Boylan noted there is not enough access to ultrasound, and that permitting abortion "without adequate scanning facilities is fraught with risk."

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