THE lack of GPs in Carlow providing an abortion service will impact the most vulnerable in society, according to a local campaigner.
Carlow is one of just four counties where no GP has so far signed up to provide an abortion service. It has led to a situation where women with crisis pregnancies will once again have to travel out of the county for an abortion.
Steph Hanlon of the Carlow Choice and Equality Network described her reaction to the news as “a mixture of shock, disappointment and real anger”.
“This has really devastating consequences that people will still have to travel for an abortion,” she said.
Ms Hanlon said that forcing women to travel would disproportionately affect minorities, those on limited incomes and women in abusive relationships.
“(Abortion) more and more looks like a privilege for people who can afford it,” she declared.
The Carlow Choice and Equality Network plans to hold a public rally next week with details to be published on its Facebook page. In the meantime, the network is calling on the public to contact their local GPs and ask why they have not signed up. “They should be under an obligation to give you an answer,” said Ms Hanlon.
An online petition ‒ my.uplift.ie ‒ has also been set up.
The Nationalist understands that local GPs have serious concerns about how the service has been rolled out. There is anger at the Department of Health and the HSE for rushing through legislation without putting the necessary resources and supports in place.
The first training weekend for the course took place less than two weeks before Christmas and it was available to only a limited number of GPs. Women are to have access to ultrasounds under the service, but virtually no GPs have ultrasound machines or the training to operate one.
Ultrasounds are necessary in a number of circumstances, including assessing gestation and whether an ectopic pregnancy is present. The HSE has contracted ultrasounds out to a private company, but there is no service in the southeast.
There is also uncertainty whether local GPs can refer to St Luke’s Hospital, Kilkenny or University Hospital Waterford for ultrasounds.
There is still an ongoing issue in the county of GPs not taking on new patients and it’s feared that doctors signing up for the service will see their patient numbers rise, when they are struggling to manage their current lists. However, there is a belief locally that a substantial number of Carlow GPs will soon sign up to provide abortion services.
Sources highlight that the service is at a very early stage and could take up to a year to bed in. Currently, if women present at a local clinic seeking an abortion, ***The Nationalist*** understands that one outcome is that they will be referred to a Dublin clinic.
Ms Hanlon believes there are a number of reasons why GPs are not signing on, including doctors refusing on conscience grounds and fears that clinics will become protest zones.
Ms Hanlon agreed that rushing the legislation through government was a factor, but it “should not be an issue that dictates whether a clinic signs on”.