Belfast Telegraph

Abortion services made available in Republic following referendum result

Voters last year backed a measure to repeal laws outlawing terminations.

Health Minister Simon Harris speaking to the media after he was briefed by Health Service Executive officials on the agency’s winter plan implementation in Dublin today.
Health Minister Simon Harris speaking to the media after he was briefed by Health Service Executive officials on the agency’s winter plan implementation in Dublin today.

Abortion services have been introduced in the Republic of Ireland today following a landslide vote in favour of liberalising the country’s strict laws.

As of midnight on Tuesday terminations have become available free of charge by the Irish national health service, GPs and family planning services as well as hospitals across the country.

Health Minister Simon Harris said: “This is a very significant day for women’s healthcare.”

He described it as “momentous” that women in crisis pregnancy would no longer have to travel abroad to access services.

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The Rotunda Hospital in Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)

But he said it would take time to “fully evolve and fully embed” as it was a new service for the Irish health service.

The introduction of services follows a landmark referendum in May when some 66.4% of the electorate voted to repeal a controversial amendment in the Irish constitution that made abortion illegal, except under very limited circumstances.

The result paved the way for the easing of country’s strict abortion laws.

Legislation providing for abortions up to 12 weeks without restriction was signed into law on December 20 by President Michael D Higgins.

Speaking ahead of the new services being implemented Mr Harris said about 80% of terminations were likely to take place in local communities and he was satisfied that the 165 GPs who signed up to provide the service was enough to meet demand.

“When a women picks up the phone and looks for her options there will be many, many locations across the country where (she) can access this service,” he said.

Dr Peter Boylan, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist working with HSE, said: “Our health service is ready to provide abortion services to people who need it.

“Clinical guidance and training has been provided and circulated to healthcare teams nationwide to assist practitioners in the clinical decision making involved in providing abortion care.”

He added: “A lot of work has been done by people across our health service to prepare for this new service, with a sufficient number of GPs signed up and others continuing to do so.

“Services will be provided in GP practices and family planning services, and maternity units and hospitals across the country.”

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A view of posters in favour of and against abortion ahead of the referendum (Niall Carson/PA)

As of Tuesday, nine hospitals will begin caring for patients seeking a termination.

These include the National Maternity Hospital; Midland Regional Hospital Mullingar; Rotunda Hospital, Dublin; 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.

Women will be referred to a new free pregnancy support service website, MyOptions.ie, which includes a new 24/7 helpline, offering advice for those experiencing unplanned pregnancy.

It will be staffed by counsellors and nurses.

The My Options counselling service is being provided on behalf of the Health Service Executive by experienced pregnancy counsellors from One Family, a national organisation for one-parent families.

Karen Kiernan, chief executive of One Family, said the organisation was delighted to be providing counselling services.

“We look forward to ensuring that people who need information, support and counselling on any aspect of an unplanned pregnancy can have their needs met,” she said.

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