December 3, 2022

Major row erupts over lack of abortion services in Kilkenny

A BITTER war of words has erupted over the failure of St Luke’s General Hospital in Kilkenny to provide abortions services.

This morning it was reported that four consultant obstetricians at St Luke’s, among them an anti-abortion campaigner, have written to local GPs to advise that termination services are not available in the hospital.

The letter, signed by Ray O’Sullivan, Raouf Salam, Yuddandi Nagaveni, and Trevor Hayes, said that, following discussions between the four, it was “decided unanimously that the hospital is not an appropriate location for medical or surgical terminations”.

Mr Hayes was a prominent anti-abortion campaigner during the referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment in May 2018.

Abortion rights campaigners reacted angrily to the news.

Anna Carnegie, spokesperson for the Abortion Rights Campaign (ARC), said: “It is unacceptable that four consultants have made a categorical decision not to provide abortion care  at St Luke’s, even if other staff in the hospital are willing to provide these services. It shows callous disregard for the health and needs of the women and pregnant people attending the hospital. Four people should not be able to decide that all patients who need abortions should have to travel to Dublin or Waterford for the services they are legally entitled to.”

Ms Carnegie also criticised claims that St Luke’s is “an unsuitable location” for abortion services.

She added: “This sentiment is nothing but a manifestation of abortion stigma. Abortion is a routine healthcare procedure. Globally, it is one of the most common gynaecological procedures women access in their lifetimes. As an acute public hospital, of course St Luke’s is a suitable location.”

Ms Carnegie referred to figures – recently revealed by – that 86 women from the Kilkenny-Carlow area were forced to travel to the UK for abortion services last year.

“This year many will be forced to travel to the larger cities – essentially replacing ferries and planes with buses and trains. In addition to the situation in St Luke’s, we understand that Carlow is one of the counties without any GPs providing community-based abortion care,” she said.

“Many people cannot travel long distances for abortion care, for various reasons including costs, caring responsibilities, health issues, precarious employment or controlling partners. Women and pregnant people in these situations are being denied their rights. It is unsurprising that abortion pills continue to be imported illegally despite the change in the law.”

Ms Carnegie also called on the Government to ensure that “safe and legal abortion care is accessible locally throughout the country”.

She added: “Institutional obstruction and refusal of care such as this is insulting to women and pregnant people and in defiance of the will of the Irish public which was expressed in last year’s referendum. ARC will continue to campaign for free, safe, legal and local abortion care, across the island of Ireland. No one left behind.”

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