Northern Ireland news

GPs in the north 'given no information about abortion services in the Republic'

GPs in the north have said they have been given no information about new abortion services in the Republic

GPS in the north have not been given any information about new abortion services in the Republic, a leading medical body has said.

Abortions have been legal in the Republic since the start of this year, following a landmark referendum on the issue in May.

However, there remains uncertainty over how women from outside the Republic can access the procedure.

Abortion is illegal in Northern Ireland unless there is a serious risk to a woman's life or health. However, women from the north can access free abortions in Britain.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said yesterday that it has not issued any extra guidance to GPs because the north's laws have not changed.

"The extant guidance issued in 2016 makes it clear that health professionals may inform women of the availability of services in other jurisdictions," she said.

However, a body which represents GPs has said it has been given no information about abortion services in the Republic or Britain.

Dr Grainne Doran, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners Northern Ireland, said GPs had sought greater clarity from the Department of Health over how they could help patients after free NHS abortion services were opened up in Britain to women from the north.

She said "information was not provided regarding services or advice for patients whenever abortion services were made available in Britain for women from NI".

She said according to advice issued by the chief medical officer, medical staff can advise women on services outside the north but should "take legal advice before they consider actively assisting a woman to access services elsewhere where the procedure would not be lawful in Northern Ireland".

Women from the north will have to pay for abortions in the Republic. The Irish Family Planning Association said it would charge women €450 for a termination, plus further costs if scans or blood tests are needed.

A spokeswoman for the Republic's Health Service Executive said if northern women want to have a termination through a GP in the Republic that GP will "decide on the cost of the service".

The new laws will allow for unrestricted access to abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy, subject to a three-day cooling off period and approval from two doctors.

Anti-abortion group Precious Life criticised the changes.

The group's director Bernadette Smyth said that "despite the false promises, made by Irish politicians and medical professionals, that abortion would be solely a GP-led service, the abortion industry has pushed its way into the country".

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