Revised Abortion Heads Further Limit Conscientious Objection


The revised Heads of the planned abortion legislation, published last week by Minister for Health Simon Harris, would further limit the right to conscientious objection compared to the earlier version.


While the original proposal, published before the referendum, would have allowed a conscientious objector to refuse “to assist” in carrying out an abortion, the revised version only allows a conscientious objector to refuse “to carry out, or to participate in carrying out, a termination of pregnancy”. As before, conscientious objection is explicitly restricted to medical practitioners, nurses, and midwives, and does not extend to other staff who may be obliged to assist in the provision of abortions.


The revised Heads would still oblige a doctor who has a conscientious objection to killing to refer a patient to an abortionist if she requested an abortion.


Writing on the issue of conscientious objection recently in The Irish Times, barrister Maria Steen wrote that the government’s determination to force GPs to refer women for abortions is “an affront to freedom of conscience and to freedom of expression.” “It is the State, under threat of force, compelling its citizens to participate in the deliberate killing of a human being,” she continued. “And it is completely unnecessary.”


“There is no impediment to the Government publishing a list of GPs who are prepared to offer abortion as one of their services, along with their contact details. Post-referendum, facilitating access to abortion is now the responsibility of the State, not of individual doctors, nor of any individual who has an objection to taking part in one.

“If conscientious objection is not fully protected, we can predict what will happen: abortion activists will target pro-life GPs by presenting in their surgeries asking for abortions, in the hope that the GPs will refuse to refer. Once they do, the activists will report them to the authorities and try to ruin them.”

Department of Health. July 10. The Irish Times. June 30.

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