Anti-abortion medics say proposals could bring potential disaster to health service

The Republic's minister for health Simon Harris
The Republic's minister for health Simon Harris

The Irish government's abortion proposal could lead to a potential "disaster" for the health service, anti-abortion doctors and nurses have claimed.

GPs and nurses from the Save the 8th Campaign claimed the Republic's health minister Simon Harris has not consulted the doctors, who would be carrying out the abortions if the Republic's laws are liberalised.

On Friday next week, voters in the Republic will be asked whether they want to repeal the Eighth Amendment of the constitution, a provision that makes abortion illegal in all but exceptional circumstances.

They will vote on whether the contentious amendment, which gives the mother and unborn an equal right to life, should be replaced with wording that hands responsibility for setting the country's abortion laws to politicians.

If the public votes to repeal, the Irish government will table legislation that would permit women to legally abort within 12 weeks of pregnancy.

The GPs who are supporting a No vote said the government was over-estimating the impact of abortion pills in delivering the terminations that will be required.

They claimed that in the UK, almost four-in-10 abortions before 12 weeks are surgical.

The Save the 8th campaign claimed using the Yes campaign's figures of 5,000 abortions annually, "this would translate to about 2,000 surgical abortions in Ireland in the first year of a new law".

GP Neil Maguire said it was not acceptable that the health minister had not consulted them.

"We are being told that this proposal is about the safety and health of women, and yet what is being proposed, in a cavalier fashion, is explicitly unsafe for women," Mr Maguire said.

"As doctors, and as members of the public, we are being asked, once again, to trust Minister Harris.

"He has not spoken to us about what role he expects us to fulfil and, what is more, he has explicitly refused to discuss it until after a referendum has been passed."

GP Anthony O'Reilly said it would be GPs and junior doctors not obstetricians that would be carrying out terminations.

"We are the people who already bear the brunt of the government's absolute incompetence when it comes to the provision of healthcare services in Ireland," Mr O'Reilly said.

Nurse Marie Donnelly said: "The lies about the abortion pill in this debate can no longer be ignored.

"It is not a magic tablet that makes pregnancies go away."

She added: "The public are being fed a diet of rubbish by Minister Harris and we know where that leads us."

"So I am challenging the minister this morning – come out of hiding."

On Saturday morning, doctors who favour repeal in next week's referendum held a Together for Yes summit in the city.

They unveiled a declaration signed by more than 1,000 doctors in Ireland calling for the end of the Eighth Amendment.

Spokesman Dr Mark Murphy said: "Doctors across Ireland want change. We want repeal. We are here today to say that the Eighth Amendment isn't working – it puts doctors in a constitutional straitjacket which holds us back from providing proper care to our patients."

The event was attended by Mr Harris, one of the key political figures in the Yes campaign.

He said claims the proposed legislation would pave the way for unrestricted abortions were not true.