Almost nine in 10 trainee GPs believe that women who are pregnant with foetuses who have conditions that are not compatible with life should be allowed to have an abortion, a new survey has revealed.
Almost three in four also believe that women who become pregnant as a result of a criminal act such as rape or incest should be allowed to have a termination.
Neither of these clauses are contained in the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill, which is currently being debated in the Dail.
The survey was carried out by Dr Ciara Flynn, a trainee GP on the North Dublin GP Scheme. She set out to assess the attitudes of trainee GPs to this controversial issue.
Almost 140 trainees responded to the survey. When asked if abortion should be allowed in cases where there is a "real and substantial risk to the life of the mother", almost all (94%) agreed.
When asked if a woman should be allowed to have an abortion if she became pregnant as a result of a criminal act, such as rape, more than three in four (77%) agreed.
When it came to ‘non-viable foetal anomalies', i.e. a foetus with no chance of survival, 88% of the trainee GPs felt that the mother should be allowed to have an abortion, with one remarking that it would be "very inconsiderate to ask a woman to carry a non-viable foetus".
The trainees were also asked whether a woman should be allowed to have an abortion in cases "where a continuation of the pregnancy may adversely affect the woman's health". At least two in three (67%) agreed with this.
When asked if there should be unlimited provision of abortion in Ireland, just over half (52%) disagreed. However, one in five trainee GPs agreed that there should be unlimited abortion here, while one in 10 ‘strongly agreed' with this statement.
"This survey indicated that the overwhelming majority of trainees support termination of pregnancy where there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother, and as such are in support of the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill," Dr Flynn concluded.
However the findings also show that most trainees support abortion significantly beyond the scope of the proposed new legislation.
"Ireland's next generation of GPs will be working within the remit of the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill, even though this survey indicates that the majority of trainees support termination of pregnancy for broader medical reasons", Dr Flynn added.
Detail of these findings are published in Forum, the Journal of the Irish College of General Practitioners. Forum is published by MedMedia Group.