Nurses Petition Harris Over Abortion Law


A group of pro-life nurses and midwives are organising a petition to Minister for Health Simon Harris urging him to engage with the healthcare professionals who will be affected by his legislation, and to support amendments that will protect their freedom of conscience. The petition, organised by Nurses and Midwives 4 Life Ireland, says that signatories “have a conscientious commitment to life which accords with the values inherent in Our Code of Professional Conduct and Ethics.” They 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 highlights serious concerns about the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018, in particular, Part 3 Section 23 (3), which, it says, “will seriously impact on our ability to practise.”


“For the first time this legislation, which differs from the 2013 Act, will permit the intentional ending of the life of the unborn child up to birth. 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.

“Participation includes any supervision, delegation, planning or supporting of staff involved in termination of pregnancy. We do not want to be discriminated against by our employers or victimised as employees if we exercise our right to freedom of conscience.”


The organisers say that despite the “unprecedented crisis” in the Health Service, the minister has made no effort to consult the nursing or midwifery professions on the clinical implications of this bill.


Meanwhile, pro-life doctors who organised a petition to hold a meeting of the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) to discuss objections to referring a woman for abortion said the decision not to hear motions at the gathering was “farcical and untenable”. The group of 640 doctors secured the meeting after sending a petition to the ICGP, their professional and training body, which is involved in drawing up guidelines on how the proposed extension of abortion law will operate from next year.


A spokesman for the group said they were angry that the meeting to be held early in December not debate motions but will only hear topics for discussion instead. Dr Andrew O’Regan, one of the GPs, said that in January there will be a roll-out of abortion facilities in general practice, even though doctors on the ground have never once been consulted by the Government or the ICGP board. He said that GPs “will face the full rigours of the law in January if they conscientiously object to being involved in abortion”.


The original motions submitted for the extraordinary general meeting described general practice as being an “entirely unsuitable setting” in which to deliver an abortion service. They also centred on securing proper freedom of conscience protections for doctors, including not being obliged to facilitate abortion through referral.


In response, a spokeswoman for the ICGP said the meeting will hear concerns of member doctors. She said the college has consulted with its members via online consultation and regional meetings. “The college’s position has been clear from the beginning, that it favours an opt-in service for GPs who wish to provide the service, with the provision of a 24-7 helpline that patients can access directly as an essential requirement. In other words, no GP who does not wish to provide a termination of pregnancy service should be required to do so,” she said.

Nurses and Midwives 4 Life Ireland. Irish Independent. November 24. Irish Examiner. November 23.

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