A group of healthcare providers in Ireland are banding together to protest legislation that would force them to violate their consciences in the country’s new abortion regime. Calling themselves Nurses & Midwives 4Life Ireland, the group is speaking out against the pending abortion legalization bill, which will implement the country’s May referendum repealing the Emerald Isle’s constitutional protection for pre-born babies. They object to the legislation forcing pro-life medical professionals to refer patients to physicians willing to commit abortions.
The group is calling on Health Minister Simon Harris to meet with nurses and midwives to hear their concerns before passing the bill, and to support amendments protecting medical workers’ conscience rights. As of Wednesday, they say they have gathered 420 signatures from registered nurses and midwives.
“We respect and defend the dignity of every stage of human life and we have a responsibility to make every valid or reasonable effort to protect the life and health of pregnant women and their unborn babies,” the petition reads. “For us as nurses and midwives participation in termination of pregnancy defined in relation to a pregnant woman, as a medical procedure which is intended to end the life of a foetus, is morally objectionable and conflicts with our conscientious commitment to life.”
“We are in the midst of an unprecedented crisis in the Health Service,” it says, “and as yet there has been no effort made by you as Minister for Health to consult the nursing or midwifery professions on the clinical implications of this bill.”
“To date, there has been minimal consultation in relation to the impact this legislation will have,” noted clinical pediatric nurse specialist Fiona McHugh, according to the Irish Examiner. The group also says it has repeatedly tried in vain to reach out to Harris.
“Section 23 of the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018 covers conscientious objection,” a Health Department spokesperson told the Examiner. “It states that where he/she has a conscientious objection, a medical practitioner, nurse, or midwife shall not be obliged to carry out, or to participate in carrying out, a termination of pregnancy.” The statement does not address pro-lifers’ concern that referrals also constitute participation.
This battle over conscience rights is just one way in which pro-lifers say the new abortion regime will be much more extreme than the moderate laws promised during the repeal campaign.
The bill allows elective abortions up to 12 weeks, abortions for “risk to the life, or of serious harm to the health, of the pregnant woman” up until viability (including “mental health”), abortions at any point in “emergency” cases of “immediate risk” to the mother’s “life or health,” and abortions at any point in cases where doctors diagnose a “condition affecting the foetus that is likely to lead to the death of the foetus either before, or within 28 days of, birth.”
Harris has previously said he wants “free” abortions to be covered by taxpayers and “exclusion zones” to prevent pro-life protests around abortion centers; and Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar has called for forcing publicly-funded Catholic hospitals to commit abortions. Earlier this month, a joint health committee defeated a proposed amendment to require humane burials or cremation of aborted babies.
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