Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he thinks 50 or 60 GPs would be sufficient to carry out abortions given that just six women in Ireland seek medical abortions every day.
Mr Varadkar insisted no GP would be forced to perform a termination of pregnancy against a conscientious objection but if they object, they must refer patients on to GPs who will.
“What we can’t allow is this suggestion that a GP, if he doesn’t provide the service, would then refuse to refer their patient on to someone who would because essentially that is the equivalent of, ‘you’re on your own, love’ and we’re not going to have that in Ireland any more,” he said at an event in Dublin.
The Taoiseach remarked, in response to a question from the media, that he was not concerned that GPs might block the roll-out of abortion next year after the National Association of General Practitioners, which represents the majority of the country’s GPs, agreed to demand an “opt-in” approach to providing abortions.
The association claims as many as eight in ten GPs would chose not to opt-in under such a system.
Mr Varadkar said he was confident abortion services would be in place next year when asked about the association’s view at the launch of the Global Ireland 2025 plan to increase diplomatic missions overseas.
It was always the Government’s intention to consult with the Irish College of General Practitioners on the clinical guidelines to be followed in doctor-led abortion services as the college will be drawing them up but that representative bodies and trade unions would be engaged with too, he said.
Roughly 4,000 women a year - or 12 a day - choose to end their pregnancies, of which six can be done through medical abortion or taking an abortion pill without need treatment in hospital, said Mr Varadkar.
“There are 4,000 GPs in the country so we don’t need 4,000 GPs to provide this service. I am not sure we even need more than 50 or 60 quite frankly when you consider that only six women a day will seek the service so it will certainly be opt-in,” he said.
“No GP is going to be required to provide the service so we are very happy to accept that principle that it’s going to be opt-in and indeed the legislation will provide provision for GPs to have a conscientious objection.”
The draft legislation published by the Government protects doctors who have a conscientious objection but medical practitioners must, under the published heads of bill, agree to refer patients to another doctor.