Obstetricians want delay to abortion services over safety fears

Health professionals have ‘serious concerns’ January 1st introduction is being rushed

GPs continue to raise concerns over the provision of abortion services from January 1st deadline. Video: Enda O'Dowd


Leading obstetricians are seeking to have the introduction of abortion delayed “because of risks to patient safety due to inadequate preparation” for it.

In a further blow to the Government’s plans to start the service by January 1st, members of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists have called for an egm of the organisation to debate a motion that the implementation of abortion legislation “cannot” commence next month and “should not take place until these risks are addressed”.

“There are very serious concerns by many members that it will be highly unsafe to commence this service in January and that legislation should not be implemented until it is safe to do,” said one of the signatories to the motion.

Obstetricians from Dublin and outside Dublin, and from large and small maternity units, had signed the motion and the signatures were collected “within a matter of hours”.

Writing in today’s Irish Times, former master of the Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital Prof Chris Fitzpatrick criticised the Government’s “frenzied attempt to meet a dangerously unrealistic deadline”.

“We are on the verge of introducing a new termination of pregnancy service, which, if rushed into operation on January 1st as scheduled, will pose a serious threat to the health and wellbeing of women ... compounded in addition by inadequate planning and insufficient resources,” Prof Fitzpatrick writes.

Information vacuum

Prof Fitzpatrick stresses that he is not a conscientious objector to abortion. “I will participate in the provision of this service – but only when it is safe to do so. At present I am operating in an information vacuum.”

He says it is “frightening” that there are no agreed models of care, published clinical guidelines or clarifications on key ethical issues and clinical concerns with less than one month to go to the introduction of the service.

Meanwhile, a one-day training course for doctors in termination of pregnancy is being provided by the Institute just days before the introduction of the measure. Applications are still being sought for the post of clinical lead for training in this area.

Several pro-choice groups that provide reproductive services for women have also privately told The Irish Times of their concerns about the “unrealistic” nature of the January deadline.