Irish Bishops Blast Requirement that Violates Pro-Life Doctors’ ‘Freedom of Conscience’

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
THOMAS D. WILLIAMS, PH.D.

Ireland’s bishops spoke out this week against a requirement that applicants to new work posts at Dublin’s National Maternity Hospital be willing to perform abortions, which they called a violation of a doctor’s “constitutional and human right to freedom of conscience.”

A recent advertisement for a post as Consultant in Obstetrics/Gynaecology and for a post as Consultant in Anaesthesia at the National Maternity Hospital declared that to be considered for the jobs, all applicants must be willing to carry out elective abortions if appointed.

This precondition “runs totally counter to a doctor’s constitutional and human right to freedom of conscience,” the bishops said in a statement, and it eliminates pro-life doctors from the running.

“A doctor who is eminently qualified to work as a consultant in these fields is denied employment in these roles because of his/her conscience,” the bishops said. “Doctors who are pro-life and who may have spent over a decade training in these areas and who may otherwise be the best candidate for these positions are now advised that, should they apply, they would not be eligible for consideration.”

“This totally undermines the whole concept of freedom of conscience which was guaranteed in the recent legislation,” they added while noting that the training and recruitment of doctors in Ireland are “greatly undermined” by these advertisements.

Abortion became legal on January 1, 2019, after a referendum on the country’s Eighth Amendment to the Constitution — which defended the right to life of unborn children — passed last May 25. The Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) began performing abortions on January 7 of this year.

In early December, dozens of Irish doctors walked out of a meeting on abortion legislation, saying that their concerns about conscience protections were being ignored. Unlike other nations, which tend to locate the procedure in specialized clinics, Ireland expects general practitioners and maternity hospitals to perform abortions, something a number of Irish doctors find unacceptable.

Many of the GPs believe that they were not listened to regarding how best to structure Ireland’s abortion legislation and have expressed fears of being obliged to participate in abortions against their consciences.

Speaking on behalf of the GPs who walked out of the meeting, 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.

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

While the Irish government has claimed it will protect the conscience rights of doctors, it has stated that all hospitals that receive any public funding will be required to allow abortions to be performed on their premises.

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