Hospitals squabble over provision of abortion

Some hospitals providing abortions have imposed restrictions on who can avail of the procedure as they do not wish to become a national centre for abortions nor let other hospitals ‘off the hook’ for providing terminations.

Only nine of the State’s nineteen hospitals with maternity units have pledged to provide abortions, but some of those, such as the Rotunda in Dublin and the National Maternity Hospital, have been restricting the operation to patients who live within the hospital’s ‘catchment area’. The restriction has taken the HSE by surprise who have responded by warning hospitals to immediately stop. In a letter to individual hospitals, it says there is no legal basis for catchment areas and women seeking an abortion have the right to choose the location for their termination.

Sources told the Irish Times that one reason the hospitals imposed the restriction was to avoid becoming a de facto national centre for abortion referrals. It was also felt a failure to limit referrals would let other units, which are not yet ready to provide the service, “off the hook”.