Choice Ireland have again called for emergency contraception to be made available over the counter after a report that a GP refused to prescribe it on “religious and ethical” grounds.

The Kerryman newspaper reported this week that a young woman who attended the Tralee SouthDoc out-of-hours clinic on Sunday was turned away and had to travel to Cork the next day to get a prescription.

Spokesperson Sinéad Ahern said:

“The need for a prescription to obtain the morning after pill is a significant burden in itself. A women 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 is and the more likely a crisis pregnancy will result. This poses a particular problem for women in rural areas where access to GPs can be very limited, especially at weekends.

“It is totally unacceptable that a woman who is able to see a GP can nonetheless 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.

“Such incidents only reinforce the need for emergency contraception to be made available over the counter in pharmacies. This is already the case in the North of Ireland, Britain and many other countries in Europe. Irish women should have the same right of access to the medical care we need, when we need it.” ENDS