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Drop in number of legal abortions as GPs practised in 'climate of fear'

GPs in Northern Ireland have been unable to properly advise patients seeking an abortion as Government guidelines on the topic have created a ‘climate of fear’, the RCGP has said.

According to statistics released by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS), 23 abortions were carried out in 2013/14 as opposed to 51 in 2012/13.

The RCGP has said that draft guidelines released in 2013 created a ‘climate of fear’, which has led to a drop in the numbers of abortions.

The DHSSPS’s 2013 draft guidelines stated ‘that anyone who unlawfully performs a termination of pregnancy is liable to criminal prosecution with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment’.

The guidelines have since been withdrawn following criticism from the medical profession, with new proposals set to be announced soon.

The draft guidelines permit an abortion when ‘the continuance of the pregnancy threatens the life of the woman, or would adversely affect her physical or mental health in a manner that is ‘real and serious’ and ‘permanent or long term’.’

However, there is no further clarification regarding when this exception would apply.

Dr John O’Kelly, chair of the RCGP in Northern Ireland, said: ‘Our feeling was that these guidelines muddied the waters further, especially when they were perceived to threaten healthcare professionals with prison. That creates a climate of fear and even more uncertainty.’

He added that the college was supportive of more recent proposals put forward by the justice minister, ‘but as yet we have heard nothing as to how this is progressing’.

Readers' comments (4)

  • Welcome to the middle ages folks.

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  • Why should a reminder of the law be seen as a return to the Middle Ages?

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  • This type of threatening language is 'Nudge Unit' speak. The Governments own private Behavioural Insights Team. This is not the only use of threatening language being use nowadays to 'Nudge' (coerse, intimidate) folks to either 'do' or 'not do' something.

    They seem to think its acceptable to use threatening language to 'persuade' citizens and professionals to behave according to their own 'ideology'.

    Its called Operant Conditioning. Do you recall the social experiments since deemed unethical back in the day when Behavioral Psychology was new and they used to experiment on children with negative reinforcement and punishment etc.

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  • Let us be very careful in seeking the liberalism of mainland UK, since 1967,over 8 million unborn children have been killed here, with few dissenting voices, but rather support from politicians, press and even the medical establishment. Their voices are unheard and their lives and rights protected by no law and no advocate. A population greater than the whole of Scotland or London, exterminated and that often in the most barbaric of ways,this a holocaust now exceeding that of the Nazi extermination camps. I am glad to read that there remains in the UK at least one place where a semblance of humanity remains, may it long continue.

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