Blog Post

Majority of Doctors Refuse to Perform Abortions in Ireland

Commentary by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS

Despite all the hype surrounding the repeal of Ireland’s abortion ban, the first week of legal abortion in that country found only 179 doctors willing to perform the procedure with the remaining 95 percent saying they want no part in it. is reporting on the dismal rollout of legal abortion in Ireland where activists are disappointed by the lackluster response of the nation’s medical profession. According to the Irish health department, only five percent of the nation’s 3,500 general practitioners (GP) are willing to perform the procedure and of that number, dozens have asked that their names not be shared through the government’s new abortion hotline.This has resulted in women calling the hotline only to discover that they cannot obtain a free abortion because there is no provider in their area willing to perform it. 

According to The Southern Star, women from West Cork who tried to contact the new helpline were frustrated when they experienced long delays or were left holding for nearly an hour only to be told someone would call them back later. When The Southern Star tried to speak with an operator, it was also unable to do so.

The hotline website informs women that not all GPs are willing to provide these services and advises, “If your GP or doctor will not carry out an abortion, they should always refer you to someone who does provide the service.” If their GP doesn’t cooperate, they are encouraged to see another doctor.

Women in Ireland are finding out that abortion in Ireland might be legal and free for pregnancies up to 12 weeks or later if the unborn child has a terminal condition or poses a health risk to the mother, but it’s not going to be easy to get. In addition to observing a three-day waiting period and dealing with the scarcity of willing doctors, they they are also required to get a certificate from a GP - something many are finding is equally difficult to acquire because so many doctors object to abortion for either moral or practical reasons.

According to the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), an online survey of the nation’s doctors taken two months before the law went into effect, found that 43 percent felt unprepared to participate in abortion “due to concerns regarding capacity, resources or conscientious objection,” but are willing to refer a patient to another colleague. Twenty-five percent of those polled said they would not perform an abortion or refer a patient to another doctor. Overall, just 32 percent said they would provide “termination-of-pregnancy services.”

Abortion activists in Ireland are learning the hard way that convincing lawmakers to ram through legislation legalizing the controversial practice is not the best way to force abortion on a nation.

The National Association of General Practitioners, Ireland’s largest association of GPs, took the nation’s Minister for Health, Simon Harris, to task for the way he rushed through the legislation for political purposes.

“The National Association of GPs believes that the rushed manner in which termination of pregnancy services are being introduced is unacceptable and unsafe,” the group said in a statement. “We object to the pressure being placed on frontline staff to get some sort of service in place by January, purely to protect the Minister for Health’s political reputation.”

They added: ““The women of Ireland will not forgive the health system, if an unsafe service is brought in for the sake of political expediency.”

Ireland is just beginning to discover what the U.S. has known for some time now – the majority of doctors dedicated to saving lives aren’t comfortable with a procedure that ends the life of a human being. Only 14 percent of doctors in the U.S. are willing to perform abortions.

Thankfully, in our country, doctors are not forced to perform abortions if it violates their consciences; however, in Ireland this is not the case. All publicly funded health care facilities, regardless of their religious affiliation, are expected to perform abortions.

Pro-life activists in Ireland are continuing to fight this deadly practice and are planning peaceful, prayerful protests at existing abortion sites. This may not be able to stop the law from being enforced, but it will continue to remind the public that there’s another point-of-view about abortion that goes beyond the feel-good euphemisms of “choice” and “women’s rights.”

Abortion ends a human life and, just like any other kind of murder, it has no place in a civilized society.

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