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Woman denied pill on ‘religious’ basis

By Claire O’Sullivan

Irish Examiner, Saturday, August 28, 2010

A KERRY woman had to travel to Cork to get the morning-after-pill after she was refused the emergency contraception on "religious grounds".

Now women’s health lobby group Choice Ireland has called for emergency contraception to be made available over-the-counter

The group claims women have said they are forced to travel to clinics outside Kerry as doctors there won’t give them the pill.

One woman said she had to travel to Cork the following day after she was refused the contraception at SouthDoc in Tralee and couldn’t find any other GP surgery that was open on a Sunday.

The morning-after contraceptive pill can be taken for up to 72 hours after unprotected sex but the earlier it is taken, the more effective it is.

Spokeswoman for Choice Ireland Sinead Ahern said it is unfair for women to be forced to pay up to €60 for a GP appointment to obtain the pill, before they even pay for their prescription.

"The need for a prescription to obtain the morning -after-pill is a significant burden in itself," she said.

"A woman must first find a GP who will see her – which can be difficult at the weekend, when demand for the pill is highest – and then pay the roughly €60 visit fee, on top of the charge for the pill.

"The longer the delay, the less effective the pill. This poses a particular problem for women in rural areas where access to GPs can be very limited, especially at weekends," she added.

"It is totally unacceptable that a woman can be denied the pill on the basis of that GP’s personal views.

"Medical professionals should act professionally and not allow their religious or ethical beliefs to interfere with the job they are paid to do.

"It is incumbent on the HSE to ensure that patients are not placed in a position where the only doctor available to them is allowed an ‘opt-out’ of the treatment they require."

The morning-after pill is available over the counter in Britain, and in the North.

When contacted yesterday, SouthDoc in Tralee said that they could not comment on doctor-patient exchanges as that would breach patient confidentiality.

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