The 162 doctors signed up to provide abortion services in the State will "be enough" to ensure that women do not have to go abroad to terminate a pregnancy after January 1st, Minister for Health Simon Harris has said.
An uneven geographic spread of services will be available from Tuesday, when GPs can begin prescribing the abortion pill to women up to nine weeks into a pregnancy and hospitals can provide terminations up to 12 weeks. However, there are two counties where no GP has signed up to the service.
The National Maternity Hospital in Dublin is believed to have become the first hospital to publicly advertise the provision of abortion services by uploading information to its website on Friday.
“From January 7th, 2019, we will be in a position to begin accepting referrals for abortion services for women within our catchment area (South Dublin, Wicklow and Kildare),” the hospital said.
“We can only accept referrals from general practitioners and community-based services like the Irish Family Planning Association.”
There will be enough GPs right across this country to make sure the service can commence in January
A spokeswoman for the Rotunda in Dublin said it would be providing abortions from the new year, even though the new regime will put pressure on resources.
Nine units ready
It is envisaged that abortions will eventually be available in 19 maternity units, but only nine are understood to be ready at this stage.
Of the 162 GPs signed up to provide the service around the State, it is understood that about 30 do not want their details given out by a HSE helpline for fear they may be targeted by anti-abortion activists.
“We gave a commitment that abortion services would be available in Ireland from January 1st,” Mr Harris said. “There will be enough GPs right across this country to make sure the service can commence in January, so no longer will people have to get the boat or the plane, they will be able, for the first time ever, to avail of abortion services here in our own country.”
A source said the fact that some hospitals were not yet ready “may mean that women will have to travel to get access to abortion” while the services get off the ground but not to another country.
“Any emergency cases would naturally be dealt with by the larger maternity units anyway,” the source said.