Irish abortion doctors reporting little disapproval from colleagues

It is now more than one year since a very liberal abortion law was introduced in Ireland. Only a minority of GPs are willing to prescribe the abortion pill, and in hospitals, a much smaller number perform abortions. But what kind of reaction do they get from other health workers? According to a new paper some experience ‘stigma’, but it is not at the level doctors encounter in the US, on average.

The  paper is published in the journal, ‘Contraception’, and reveals that the 156 abortion providers, mostly GPs (66.7pc), who were surveyed for it seem to encounter the levels of social disapproval they might expect to find in a very liberal American State like Massachusetts. But overall, they reported fewer issues talking about their involvement in carrying out abortions, and fewer experiences of judgement and ‘discrimination’. Only 15pc experienced a verbal threat or attack related to their abortion work.

The level of disapproval was measured using a proper scale called APSS.  Those working in hospitals scored higher on the APSS scale than the GPs (they encountered more disapproval). Those doctors carrying out only surgical abortions scored higher than those who offer the abortion pills, or a combination of both (pills and surgical).

The higher score for those working in hospital, and for those performing surgical abortions, is probably due to the level of direct involvement in the procedure. GPs in Ireland offer abortion pills at an earlier stage of the pregnancy and they are not directly physically killing the baby, as the procedure is completed at home. Instead, hospital staff are actively participating in the procedure and, as the study euphemistically says, “must encounter the fetal remains. This increases the moral and physical taint ascribed to abortion work, which in turn increase stigma”.

The study also revealed that, even if the termination method of dilation and evacuation is not offered in Ireland, “senior trainees are undergoing international training in the procedure with a view of offering it in the future”. This is quite concerning. Dilation and evacuation is a procedure used in late-term abortions and, the study acknowledges, it is “highly stigmatising”. It is a horrific method that removes the baby, who is fully developed, piece by piece from the mother’s body.

At present what appears to be happening in cases of late-term abortions is that the babies are delivered alive and then left to die.

The study is significant as it is the first one addressing the specific issue of the reaction abortion-providers attract from their colleagues. Moreover, the study is based on voluntary self-reporting and the sample is quite small: 156 respondents, 67pc of which were GPs and 18pc Obstetricians/Gynecologists.

What are to make of the findings? It is actually disappointing that the doctors do not encounter more disapproval from their colleagues. Direct abortion, like euthanasia, is the antithesis of real medicine. It kills a patient, when doctors should only ever offer care. Doctors above all should defend the true purpose and nature of medicine. Those who provide abortion should encounter disapproval.