Health service unable to cope with demand if abortion legalised, medics claim

GP says referendum campaign has led to ‘fundamental divisions’ within profession

GPs and nurses supporting the Save the 8th campaign attend a press conference in Dublin on Monday, May14th.

The State’s health system will be unable to cope with the demand for additional surgical procedures if access to abortion is legalised, a group of anti-abortion doctors, nurses and midwives has said.

The medics told an event hosted by the Save the 8th campaign on Monday that the Government had not carried out a full assessment of the cost and logistics of law changes arising from the potential repeal of the Eighth Amendment after the May 25th referendum.

Ann Flynn, assistant director of nursing at St Vincent’s hospital, Dublin, said Minister for Health Simon Harris was “asking us to introduce an abortion regime that cannot be introduced” into the health system he leads.

“There has been no impact assessment, no costing, no survey of staff to find out who might be willing to partake in abortions, no survey of hospitals where the service can be carried out. Hospitals can’t cope with the extra surgical procedure,” she said.


Ms Flynn said she expected “a great many staff” would conscientiously object to providing terminations in their clinics and that it would be “a service nobody wants to provide”.

Dr Neil Maguire, a GP based in Navan, Co Meath, predicted, based on UK statistics, that Irish hospitals would have to carry out some 2,000 surgical abortions a year. He added that GPs would be expected to carry out ultrasounds of pregnancies during consultations.

‘Political expediency’

“What is being proposed looks as if it’s being put down on paper for political expediency without scientific medicine at heart,” he said. “It is fundamentally unreasonable to ask doctors to add ending lives to their list of duties.”

A spokeswoman for the Together for Yes group said the claims of the medics were an attempt to distract from the fact that removing the Eighth Amendment “is the only way to end the unregulated use of abortion pills in Irish homes, and provide for cases of rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormality”.

Asked to comment on his colleagues who have called for a Yes vote, Dr Maguire said the abortion debate had caused “fundamental divisions” within the profession.

“A lot of the doctors who are convinced we should vote Yes, I think they have been exposed to or worked in environments where society has normalised abortion and hidden from the horror of abortion. At a professional level we respect each other but at a moral level there are questions,” he said.

“You will hear 1,000 doctors have signed up to a Yes vote. I’m with the 95 per cent who haven’t.”

Asked to clarify this statistic, Save the 8th spokesman John McGuirk said the vast majority of doctors were not speaking publicly about whether they would vote Yes or No but that “they certainly don’t want to be providing the service they’ve been asked to provide”.

“An awful lot of the debate is focused on obstetricians and gynaecologists but actually GPs are the ones being asked to provide this service,” said Mr McGuirk. “It’s readily apparent that there are huge problems with delivering a GP-led abortion service and that some alternative will have to be found.”

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast