Last Thursday, the Oireachtas began debating the bill which proposes to make abortion widely available in Ireland within the coming months.
In response, the Bishop’s Conference highlighted, in a statement, that for healthcare professionals who are pro-life, the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018 poses a substantial moral dilemma.
The draft legislation holds that abortion will be predominantly drug induced up to twelve weeks. Pharmacists (in hospitals or private practice) are therefore presumed to routinely stock and dispense drugs that will end human life, and bishops stated that there is no provision for pharmacists to opt out on the grounds of conscientious objection.
The draft legislation also holds that doctors and nurses may opt out of providing abortion on the grounds of conscientious objection. However, the current bill holds that they must refer the patient to another colleague who will perform the procedure.
In their statement bishops asked 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.”
Healthcare professionals should face no legal, professional or financial penalties “for their commitment to respect life” the statement says.
Bishops pointed to the implementation of a system similar to that of New Zealand, where medical professionals or not required to refer their patients to colleagues for abortion.
As freedom of conscience is recognised in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the bishops said that, “to strip a person of the right to freedom of conscience is to undermine his or her fundamental dignity as a person.”