Harris urges doctors to show ‘clinical leadership’ on abortion

Minister to meet doctors’ representative groups to discuss clinical guidelines

Minister for Health Simon Harris: “I will be using this opportunity to ask the stakeholders to put their shoulder to the wheel.” Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Women in crisis pregnancies will expect their doctors to provide abortion services when it becomes legal, Minister for Health Simon Harris has said.

He said he acknowledged medical professionals were raising issues of genuine concern regarding the planned introduction of terminations from the beginning of January. However, he said “we need clinical leadership to prevail”.

His comments come after warnings from obstetricians the service would not be ready to roll out at the start of January.

The Minister is to meet doctors’ representative organisations on Monday, where an outline of new clinical guidelines is expected to be considered.


Mr Harris said the meeting would provide an opportunity “to show the progress that has been made in establishing a 24-7 helpline, in the roll-out of the public information campaign.

“I will be using this opportunity to ask the stakeholders to put their shoulder to the wheel and assist the HSE in providing this much needed service. I am eager to hear their concerns, not through the airwaves or the papers, but directly and I will not shirk from my responsibility in responding appropriately. But I also want to hear solutions. ”

Maternity hospitals

The Sunday Business Post reported yesterday that Dublin’s three maternity hospitals were unable to guarantee they would be in a position to provide termination of pregnancy services from the beginning of January.

Mr Harris said on Sunday that the establishment of termination services at the beginning of January was not a “deadline” or a “political project” for him.

“It is a recognition that without a start date, women will still travel and will still take illegal pills. Any delay will affect the 12 women a day who find themselves in crisis pregnancies and only have the internet or the plane as solutions.

The Department of Health said the HSE was examining plans submitted by hospital groups for abortion services in all 19 maternity units in their hospitals across the country.

The department said clinical guidelines for termination services were "at an advanced stage" and existing Medical Council ethical guidelines would remain in place until new ones were completed.

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is the former Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent