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Irish bishops urge Government to allow healthcare professionals to opt-out of abortion

Irish bishops are urging the Government and wider society to respect the right of all healthcare professionals to exercise conscientious objection.

Their call comes as the Termination of Pregnancy Bill is introduced before the Dáil.

The Irish Bishops’ Conference has released a statement warning that the bill, which proposes to make abortion widely available in Ireland within the coming months, ‘poses a very real practical and moral dilemma for healthcare professionals who believe in the fundamental human right to life and in their own responsibility to serve life’.

The draft legislation envisages that, in the first twelve weeks, abortion generally will be drug induced, which, the bishops explained, presumes that pharmacists, whether in hospitals or in private practice, will routinely stock and dispense drugs whose specific purpose is to end human life. The bishops point out that no provision is made for pharmacists to opt out on the grounds of conscientious objection.

The draft legislation also provides for doctors and nurses to opt out of providing abortion, but requires that, in such cases, they refer the patient to a colleague who will perform the procedure. The bishops note that such a requirement may have the appearance of respecting freedom of conscience but, in reality, it requires a healthcare professional to co-operate in what he or she sincerely believes is doing harm to one patient and taking the life of another.

‘We ask the Government, and wider society, to respect the right of all healthcare professionals and pharmacists to exercise conscientious objection not only by refusing to participate actively in abortion but also by declining to refer their patients to others for abortion,’ the bishops say in their statement.

‘Healthcare professionals, pharmacists and ancillary healthcare workers, should not face legal, professional or financial penalties or any form of discrimination for their commitment to respect life.’

The bishops suggest that the Irish Government should follow in the footsteps of New Zealand, where healthcare professionals ‘opt in’ to the provision of abortion if they so wish. In the case of conscientious objection, however, they are not obliged to refer their patients to others for abortion.

The bishops highlight the fundamental right to freedom of conscience, as recognised in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

‘Conscience is that private space in the heart of every person in which the truth is discovered and accepted. For men and women of faith, conscience is the reflection in their own heart of the voice of God, supported by faith and reason. To strip a person of the right to freedom of conscience is to undermine his or her fundamental dignity as a person,’ they say.

The bishops are encouraging all Catholics to pray for healthcare professionals and politicians so that they may have the wisdom to know what is right and the courage to do what is right.

Picture: A healthcare professional walks down a hospital ward. (Peter Byrne/PA).

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OTHER NEWS

JOIN US FOR THE RE-DEDICATION EVENT -WATCH OUR LIVESTREAM BELOW AT NOON

THE REDEDICATION In 1381, England was dedicated to Mary by King Richard II and was 'set apart for her among the nations. This year, the Christians of England are called to make a personal dedication to Mary, taking up her example as Christ’s first disciple. History...

Prayers to say for the rededication of England as Mary’s Dowry

At noon today (Sunday, 29 March), England will be rededicated as the Dowry of Mary. While celebrations have been scaled back for obvious reasons, Catholics can still make join in at home by saying the prayers below. You can say the prayers at any time of day, although...

Online Mass and CAFOD are helping fill the holes left in our Sundays

With the coronavirus pandemic causing Masses across the country to be cancelled, there is now a large demand for virtual worship – and Catholic charity CAFOD hopes its weekly ‘Children’s Liturgy Live!’ will inspire families across the UK after the first session saw...

Catholic Churches in Europe opened to fight COVID-19

Catholic dioceses and religious orders across Europe are offering to turn church facilities into spaces needed for health care or housing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Church leaders throughout Europe have been struggling to maintain Catholic religious devotions...

CAFOD takes its activities online as world stays home

With the onset of the coronavirus leaving many spending more time inside, organisations have swung into action moving their activities online, including UK charity CAFOD, which hopes its digital events and resources will unite international communities. The Covid-19...