Abortion services: New counselling hotline goes live
My Options will provide the names of GPs and hospitals offering abortion services
Minister for Health said the the services ‘on offer tomorrow will be so much better than what we have in our country today’. Photograph: PA
Abortion services have been introduced in the Republic of Ireland on Tuesday following a landslide vote in favour of liberalising the country’s laws.
As of midnight terminations have become available free of charge, GPs and family planning services as well as hospitals across the country.
Minister for Health 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.
But he said it would take time to “fully evolve and fully embed” as it was a new service for the Irish health service.
A new information freephone line which will be the first point of contact for women requiring abortion services went live on New Year’s Day.
The My Options freephone helpline (1800 828 010) is provided by the HSE and will be staffed by trained professional counsellors from 9am on January 1st.
Speaking at a press conference on Monday to outline details of the My Options service, Mr Harris said it would take time for the services to fully evolve.
“But what I can say to women across this country is that the services on offer tomorrow will be so much better than what we have in our country today, where we can’t provide that support, we can’t provide those options.
The Minister also said he was satisfied the helpline was adequately staffed.
“Obviously this is a very sensitive issue many people will ring the helpline with an unexpected pregnancy just looking for advice on all of their options.
“Remember there are lots of different options and different women will make different decisions and we trust women to make choices and decisions. That’s very much what our referendum was about.
“I would encourage people to go to myoptions.ie for any information and the helpline will indeed become live tomorrow.”
Women seeking advice will be able to request the name of the nearest GP who can provide abortion services if they are up to nine weeks pregnant.
To date approximately 165 GP clinics have agreed to provide abortion services which, in the first instance, will be the abortion pill.
The list of GPs has not been published as many fear being targeted by anti-abortion activists but the names will be given to women who ring the My Options freephone line.
Mr Harris said he expected 80 per cent of terminations to be carried out in the community and he added: “I am satisfied that we have enough doctors in place to commence the services.”
After nine weeks, women will be referred to the nearest hospital providing abortion services. Currently there are nine hospitals in the State willing to provide abortion services.
The hospitals in question will be the; National Maternity Hospital - Holles Street, the Midland Regional Hospital Mullingar, the Rotunda Hospital, Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital Drogheda, University Hospital Galway, Mayo University Hospital, University Maternity Hospital Limerick, Cork University Maternity Hospital and University Hospital Waterford.
HSE sexual health and crisis pregnancy programme leader Helen Deely said women can go directly to their GPs if they have an unplanned pregnancy, but it would be preferable if they rang the My Options helpline first.
She said the helpline will also provide “non-directive” information which will advice on services for women who wish to continue their pregnancies.
As most GP services will be closed on New Year’s Day, which is a bank holiday, she said it will be Wednesday before pregnant women will be able to access abortion services through their doctors.
The My Options freephone line (1800 828 010) will be available from 9am to 9pm from Monday to Friday and on Saturdays from 10am to 2pm.
There is also a 24/7 nurse line for medical or nursing queries. This service will be available to women who are looking to take the abortion pill or have taken the abortion pill.
Women who are looking for counselling rather than medical services can leave a voicemail if nobody is available to speak to them and somebody will get back to them.
A face-to-face or phone counselling service will be available and can be arranged between two and five days.
Men will also be able to contact the helpline if their partners are going through an unplanned pregnancy.