Will Hospital Owned by Religious Order Perform Abortions, IVF?


The ongoing controversy over the planned new National Maternity Hospital (NMH) is cast in terms of concerns that the Sisters of Charity or the St Vincent’s Healthcare Group (SVHG), who will own the hospital, might prevent or try to prevent unethical practices such as abortion and IVF from taking place there. The scandalous nature of the prospect that a hospital owned by a Catholic religious order could be used for such unethical practices has received less attention.


While it has been a matter of public knowledge for some time that the NMH was intending to move to the grounds of St Vincent’s Hospital, the current controversy was sparked by an article in The Irish Times by Patsy McGarry on April 18 which dragged the issue of the hospital into the ongoing debate over the Magdalene Laundries.


The idea of such a move was first mooted in 1998, and it was formally announced in May 2013. An agreement between the SVHG and NMH was announced last November, at which time the cost of building the hospital was estimated at €150 million. That amount has since, mysteriously, doubled. One of the provisions of that agreement was that the clinical and operational governance of the new maternity hospital would be assigned to a new company which would be independent of SVHG, and that the hospital would be permitted to provide all services which are legal. Currently this would include abortions where a woman threatens suicide but, if the law were to change in the future, it could allow for abortion on much wider grounds.


James Menton, the chairman of SVHG, restated this week that the new hospital would be free to engage in such practices. “In line with current policy and procedures any medical procedure which is in accordance with the laws of the Republic of Ireland will be carried out at the new hospital,” he stated.


It also emerged this week that the Merrion Fertility Clinic, which provides IVF services, is expecting to be accommodated in the new hospital. Architects’ drawings for the new hospital show that fertility services are to be located on the first floor, which accommodates a “reproductive medicine facility”. This includes a “cryo store” and “embryology lab” and several procedure suites.


A statement from Merrion Fertility Clinic confirmed it “will be moving to St Vincent’s as part of the National Maternity Hospital Project.” It said the “finer details” are under consideration and will not be finalised for some time. The clinic’s director, Dr Mary Wingfield, said that Merrion’s “close affiliation” with the NMH will continue at the new site.

Family & Life. April 28.

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