Irish Doctors Storm out of Meeting in Protest of New Abortion Legislation

In this Aug. 7, 2018 photo, a doctor performs an ultrasound scan on a pregnant woman at a hospital in Chicago. According to a study released on Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018, first-time mothers at low risk of complications were less likely to need a cesarean delivery if labor was induced …
AP Photo/Teresa Crawford

Dozens of Irish doctors staged a walk-out of an emergency meeting on abortion legislation Sunday, saying that their concerns about conscience protections are being ignored.

Following a May referendum that repealed a Constitutional amendment protecting the right to life of unborn children, the Irish government has moved forward to legalize abortion beginning on January 1. Unlike other nations, however, which tend to locate the procedure in specialized clinics, Ireland reportedly will expect general practitioners and maternity hospitals to perform abortions.

The abortion bill being discussed would legalize abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy for any reason and up to six months or even further along in many circumstances. It would also force taxpayers to pay for abortions and oblige Catholic hospitals to perform them, while limiting conscience protections for medical professionals.

About 300 doctors attended a meeting of the Irish College of General Practitioners in Dublin on Sunday to discuss repercussions from the government’s plans regarding abortions. After about a half hour, dozens of meeting attendees stormed out of the assembly in protest.

More than 640 general practitioners have also reportedly signed a petition that refers to the proposed abortion legislation as a “serious crisis.”

Speaking on behalf of the GPs who walked out, Dr. Andrew O’Regan said that Simon Harris, Ireland’s pro-abortion health minister, had created the “very false impression” that general practice is an adequate setting for abortion provision.

Many of the GPs believe that they have not been listened to or consulted regarding how best to structure new abortion legislation and some reportedly fear being obliged to participate in abortions against their consciences.

The doctors have “not been genuinely engaged with in a respectful, democratic way,” Dr. O’Regan said.

Even the Irish Times has acknowledged that the health minister’s legislation “requires doctors to involve themselves actively in ending the baby’s life.”

Other in the medical profession said that the Irish health system is simply not ready to begin providing abortions on January 1. Training for medical workers to deal with demand for abortions will begin in Dublin, Cork, Galway, and Limerick next week ahead of the anticipated rollout of the new law.

Dr. Illona Duffy, an OB-GYN, said that that government leaders have not involved members of the medical profession in their decision-making or provided doctors with details of their plans to legalize abortion.

“Ireland is one of the only countries where abortion services will be through GPs, it is usually through clinics. In most countries patients self-refer to clinics,” Dr. Duffy said.

Fiona McHugh of Nurses&Midwives4Life said that her group had repeatedly requested a meeting with the health minister but that he had kept them “utterly in the dark” over his plans for new abortion regulations.

“There has been little or no consultation with staff as to what impact this legislation will have on clinical practice and the impact on health service delivery,” she said.

In July, the health minister confirmed that Catholic hospitals would be forced to perform abortions, saying, that “conscientious objection is for individuals, not institutions.”

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