An Exploration of the Views and Training Status of GPs in Ireland on Termination of Pregnancy Following its Legalisation
In May 2018, abortion laws in Ireland were liberalised allowing medical abortion for the first time. It was envisaged that Irish General practitioners (GPs) would provide this service. There has been no formal scientific study on the attitudes and knowledge of Irish GPs on this topic. We aimed to elicit the views and level of preparedness of Irish GPs to carry out their proposed role in providing medical abortion services in Ireland.
222 practising GPs were surveyed. Participants are affiliated with the Graduate Entry Medical School (GEMS) in the University of Limerick, as well as graduates of the University Specialist Training Programme in General Practice.
The response rate was 57% (127/222). 93.7% of GPs were willing to share abortion information with their patients. 48.0%would be willing to prescribe abortion pills before 12 weeks gestation, with 37.0% unwilling to do so. 40.9% of respondents believed that such a service should not be part of general practice, with a further 17.3% indicating uncertainty. 72.4% believed that those who do not wish to be part of the process should be entitled to a conscientious objection (CO) but should also be obliged to refer a woman to a participating doctor. 82.7% of GPs had no training in this area of practice, with 3.2% indicating that they had sufficient training. The majority of respondents feel that necessary support services such as counselling are not currently available.
Exploring the views and experiences of GPs in Ireland on this topic reveals many issues which need to be resolved before the service can be rolled out in a safe manner. It will be vital for state and professional bodies to provide appropriate education and guidance.