Ireland: Bishops, draft law on abortion poses “a very real practical and moral dilemma”. “Conscientious objection” must be respected

The draft legislation on abortion, which the Irish Parliament has begun to debate, 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 Irish Bishops wrote in a statement released today. The draft legislation envisages that, in the first twelve weeks, abortion can be drug induced, but no provision is made for “pharmacists to opt out on the grounds of conscientious objection”. The proposal provides for doctors and nurses to opt out of providing abortion, but requires that “they refer the patient to a colleague who will perform the procedure”. This, according to the Bishops, “may have the appearance of respecting freedom of conscience but, in reality, it requires a healthcare professional to cooperate in what he or she sincerely believes is doing harm to one patient and taking the life of another”. Therefore, the Bishops demand that healthcare professional be allowed to exercise their right to conscientious objection not only by refusing to participate actively in abortion but also by declining to refer their patients to others for abortion. Legislation in New Zealand may serve as an example, the Bishops explain, for it contains no provision obliging healthcare professionals to refer their patients. According to the Bishops, by following this approach, the Government could demonstrate “respect for the freedom of conscience of healthcare professionals”.

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