120 GPs in Republic call for No vote in referendum
Asking doctors to carry out abortions without reason being offered cannot be described as healthcare, GPs advocating a No vote have claimed.
General practitioners opposed to the repeal of the Eighth Amendment claim Irish government proposals to liberalise Ireland's termination laws would amount to "abortion on demand".
As the referendum campaign entered its final hours, more than 120 GPs put their names to an open letter expressing "serious concerns" about health minister Simon Harris's plan.
It entails unrestricted abortions up until 12 weeks of gestation, albeit subject to medical advice and a cooling-off period, and abortion in defined exceptional circumstances between 12 and 24 weeks.
Dr Brendan Crowley, one of the signatories, said the doctors were "not expressing a position on abortion one way or the other".
"However, we are united in the view that the government's proposals would open the door to abortion on demand in a similar manner to that prevailing in Britain," he said, quoting the letter.
He said: "As GPs, we have serious concerns about the government's proposed law on abortion that envisages a GP-led service for unrestricted abortion up to 12 weeks, in the event of repeal of the Eighth Amendment in the referendum on 25 May.
"In circumstances where the draft abortion law specifies that the role of the GP will be 'carrying out the termination of pregnancy' at the request of the patient, without the need for any reason to be given by the patient, there is no way such a proposal could be described as 'healthcare'.
"The government's legislative proposal in the event of the referendum passing would also permit abortion, including on mental health grounds, up to 24 weeks in pregnancy.
"Again, these vague and ill-defined grounds for abortion do not constitute evidence-based healthcare.
"Given that repeal of the Eighth Amendment would strip unborn babies of all legal protections and given what we regard as the inappropriateness of expecting GPs to oversee the provision of abortion services, without any prior consultation from government on the matter, we believe a No vote on 25 May is the correct course of action at this time."
The referendum debate has divided the healthcare profession. Many doctors are also vociferous advocates for repealing the Eighth Amendment.