Background: Termination of pregnancy (ToP) is currently illegal in Ireland. In 2010, more than 4000 women travelled from Ireland to the UK for a ToP. Objectives: The aims of this study were to assess the attitudes and clinical experiences of Irish General Practitioners (GPs) and GPs-in-training (GPRs) towards ToP.
Methods: A postal survey was sent to 500 GPs in Ireland. An internet-based survey was sent to 244 GPRs. Quantitative and qualitative analysis was performed.
Results: Overall response was 44%. Four groups of doctor's opinions could be identified: (A) abortion can never be allowed (10%); (B) abortion can be allowed in limited circumstances (25%); (C) abortion should be available to all women (51%); and (D) no definite opinion (14%). Doctors in groups (A) and (B) were older and more often Catholic. Of doctors in group (C), 66% indicated an upper gestational limit of maximum 16 weeks. More than 40% of all respondents had at least one consultation specifically dealing with ToP within the past six months and 43% agreed with the statement that women's health suffers due to the travel related to ToP.
Conclusion: Most responding GPs and GPRs (75%) support the provision of ToP in Ireland in certain circumstances. The qualitative analysis of this survey showed that the terms pro-life and pro-choice inappropriately describe the spectrum of opinions. This study highlights clinical situations in which women's health may be adversely affected due to the requirement to travel for ToP.