WOMEN in West Cork who tried to contact the newly-launched abortion helpline to locate participating GPs were left frustrated this week.
There were long delays contacting the My Options phoneline, and several attempts by this newspaper to speak with an operator proved unsuccessful.
The HSE’s My Options website doesn’t have any information about participating GPs in West Cork, or Cork county, but it does state that CUMH is one of nine hospitals that will be providing free, legal abortions.
One caller, who was left holding for 45 minutes on the phoneline, was offered the option to leave their first name and contact number to get a callback from a My Options counsellor – a situation she described as being ‘not ideal’, adding that it appeared to be a breach of privacy.
She then waited for several hours without getting any call back from the service. She also spoke to an ‘emergency’ nurse, who said that she didn’t have any information on participating GPs, but was available to advise in the event of a medical emergency.
The HSE website states that women seeking a termination will need to get a certificate from a GP, and will have to observe a three-day wait, which is part of the legal requirements under the law.
The website also advises that not all GPs will provide abortion services. ‘If your GP or doctor will not carry out an abortion, they should always refer you to someone who does provide the service,’ it states, adding: ‘If your doctor isn’t helpful, try to see another one.’
A spokesperson for the HSE told The Southern Star: ‘We agreed an approach with GPs whereby details of GPs taking part in providing abortion care will not be published, but details are provided directly to people who need it, through our new My Options helpline.
‘We are satisfied that there is already a good geographic spread of GPs taking part, enough to meet the needs of people who may need to access the service. Currently 179 GPs have signed the contract and each day more GPs are signing up, as the service evolves.’
The lack of other access to information about participating GPs means that the new 24-hour helpline – 1800 828 010 – will be the first point of contact for women facing a crisis pregnancy.
Of the 179 GPs participating nationwide, it is understood that about 30 of these do not want their details to be given out by the HSE helpline for fear that they may be targeted by anti-abortion activists.
At time of going to press, The Southern Star was unable to verify what GPs, if any, are providing the service in West Cork.
However, the HSE said the helpline had received a steady stream of calls since 9am on Tuesday, and while it has been ‘busy’, a member of the team will return calls ‘within 24 hours’.