Physician warns of threat to freedom of conscience in Ireland

The Irish Times

Andrew O’Regan

Sir, – I have a number of concerns relating to conscientious objection and abortion.

The recently published heads of Bill define termination of pregnancy as “a medical procedure which is intended to end the life of the foetus”.

If the referendum is passed, this is the procedure that will be available on demand for any reason up to 12 weeks and after 12 weeks on vague health grounds.

First, it is of great worry to Irish practitioners that doctors, nurses and midwives cannot avoid participation in abortion in an increasing number of jurisdictions, including Sweden, Iceland, Finland and Bulgaria.

Second, in the UK supreme court, two midwives lost their battle to be treated as “conscientious objectors”, and to be excused from participating in abortions.

The midwives were told that while they could refuse to carry out the procedures themselves, they were obliged to delegate these duties to other staff and to supervise the staff during the abortions.

Many doctors and nurses consider that if their conscience prevents them from intentionally ending the life of the foetus, they should not be required to supervise and organise this same act.

The legislation proposed if the Eighth Amendment is repealed will oblige GPs and other healthcare professionals who conscientiously object to transfer care to another doctor and to inform the patient in writing that they may seek review of the objecting doctor’s decision.

Third, in 2013 a resolution to restrict the right of doctors and nurses to conscientious objection was narrowly defeated in the European Parliament. Some Irish MEPs voted for this. In the recent Dáil debates some politicians argued against a doctor’s right to avoid participation in abortion.

We have seen how one political party expelled a number of members for voting with their consciences in 2013 and how another party suspended one of the youngest female TDs in Dáil Éireann for exercising her conscience in a vote last month.

Fourth, some academic campaigners have been arguing for the removal of conscientious objection across Europe, claiming that it can be used as a “subtle method for limiting access to abortion”.

Finally, under Minister for Health Simon Harris’s plans for abortion, GPs and others will not be entitled to conscientiously object to participating in the intentional destruction (not delivery) of the foetus where there is a risk to the life or health of the patient in an emergency.

No evidence has been produced to show that intentional destruction of the foetus is necessary to avoid risks to the life or health of a pregnant patient.

I would urge GPs and our colleagues from other disciplines who are also in the front line of patient care to inform themselves fully of the implications for the practice of medicine should this referendum be passed. – Is mise,

Dr ANDREW O’REGAN,

(General Practitioner and Senior Lecturer),
Killarney,
Co Kerry.

Obstetricians and Gynaecologists to hold meeting on abortion

Doctors to discuss proposed abortion legislation but opposing views likely to surface

The Irish Times

Marie O’Halloran

The Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists will hold an extraordinary general meeting on Friday to discuss the Government’s proposed abortion legislation.

Divergence of views on abortion proposals is expected to arise but chairman of the institute Dr Peter Boylan rejected a claim made by retired obstetrician Dr Eamon McGuinness that there was “possibly a little dispute” on the executive about the decision to support repeal of the Eighth Amendment.

Dr Boylan said 19 of the executive’s approximately 25 members attended the executive meeting at which the decision was made to support repeal of the Eighth Amendment.

“Everybody voted in favour of the institute being in favour of repeal. There was one abstention but nobody voted against it,” he said.

Medical myths about Eighth Amendment must be challenged

Campaign of fear and misinformation has been deployed to tarnish reputation of Irish medicine

Irish Times

Eamon McGuinness

The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.’

Those words were inserted into our Constitution by the Irish people in 1983. As a consultant obstetrician, and later as chairman of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, I served Irish women and their children under the auspices of the Eighth Amendment.

It should be a matter of some national pride that Ireland, in that time, has been one of the safest places on earth to be a pregnant woman, and one of the safest places in the world to be an unborn child.

In recent times, a sustained campaign has been waged by some people, including several of my colleagues in obstetrics and gynaecology, to suggest that the words at the beginning of this article put women’s lives at risk.

If that were true, I myself would be leading the charge to have them expunged from the Constitution. A constitutional restriction on my ability, or the ability of any of my colleagues, to save the life of a pregnant woman would indeed be intolerable. Let me therefore be clear: no such restriction exists.

The Eighth Amendment has one medical effect only: it prevents Irish doctors from deliberately, as an elective matter, causing the death of an unborn child. It awards to the child in the womb the right to have their life protected in Irish hospitals, in Irish GP surgeries, and in Irish operating theatres.

That right does not restrict doctors from acting to save the life of a woman where a serious complication arises. . . . [Full text]

Myths and lies about abortion must be debunked

We are all entitled to our own opinions and beliefs – but not our own facts

The Irish Times

David Robert Grimes

Abortion has long been a contentious issue in Ireland, replete with emotive and frequently dubious rhetoric. This was recently exemplified by Save the Eighth billboard campaign featuring an abortion nurse detailing the horrors he had witnessed.

This testimony was somewhat undermined by the revelation it had been fabricated, leading to the unedifying sight of campaign manager John McGuirk rapidly pivoting from legal threats to grudging acceptance, a volte-face hard to distinguish from surrealist performance art. As the referendum looms ever closer, it is inevitable campaigning will become more charged, both online and off. . . . [Full text]

Six things to know about the abortion bill

Main provisions of the General Scheme of a Bill to Regulate Termination of Pregnancy

The Irish Times

Minister for Health Simon Harris outlined in the Seanad some of the main provisions of the General Scheme of a Bill to Regulate the Termination of Pregnancy, if the referendum on whether to repeal the Eighth Amendment goes ahead and is passed:

1. Risk to life and health of the woman

. . . it would be the Government’s intention to permit termination of pregnancy in cases where there is a risk to the life or of serious harm to the health of the pregnant woman, without a distinction between risk from physical or mental health. . . .

2. Risk to health in an emergency

. . . would cover situations in which the risk to the life or of serious harm to the health of the pregnant woman is immediate.

3. Conditions likely to lead to the death of the foetus

. . . the Government would propose to permit termination of pregnancy on the grounds of a condition which is likely to lead to death before or shortly after birth.. .

4. Early pregnancy (12 weeks)

. . . it would be the Government’s intention to permit termination up to 12 weeks of pregnancy . . .

5.  Offences

. . . a woman who procures or seeks to procure a termination of pregnancy for herself . . . would not be guilty of an offence.

6. Other issues

. . . the Government would also propose to provide in legislation for a number of other issues . . . These would include, for example . . . permitting conscientious objection. . . . [Full Text]

Doubts grow over ‘nurse’ used by anti-abortion campaign

The Times

Catherine Sanz

The man portrayed as a nurse for an anti-abortion campaign held an eight-month portering role and falsified a qualification document.

Save the 8th, which campaigns against repeal of the Eighth Amendment, said yesterday it stood by the adverts despite discovering that Noel Pattern, 48, from Wexford, was not honest in the testimony. It said the main point was that Mr Pattern witnessed something he felt was unethical which had not been disputed. The adverts have been taken down at the end of a two-week booking. . . [Full Text]

Doctor doubtful over referrals in cases of conscientious objection

Irish Examiner

Evelyn Ring

A leading pro-life campaigner, who is also a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, is fearful that the right to conscientious objection to abortion, yet to be clarified by the Government, may not be allowed in the future.

John Monaghan said doctors who believe it is wrong to terminate a pregnancy should not be compelled to refer the patient to another doctor who would perform the act.

Dr Monaghan said doctors should not carry out abortions where it is not medically indicated. . . [Full text]

 

Two-thirds of GPs will refuse to provide abortion pills

Doctors voted in closed forum to rule themselves out of service

Irish Independent

Eilish O’Regan

A majority of GPs say they will not provide abortion pills to women in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy if it becomes law, according to a survey of family doctors.

Nearly seven in 10 of the 497 GPs who voted in a closed doctors’ forum said they would not be involved in medical abortions.

Around 15.7pc said they would provide the service and 16.1pc were “unsure”.

The doctors are among 3,700 GPs who are registered with GPBuddy.ie, the online medical directory designed by GPs for Irish healthcare professionals.

They responded to a series of questions on the confidential forum.

Although the survey has its limitations, it indicates that, if rolled out nationwide, it would mean a substantial number of GPs would opt out of the abortion service.

However, they would be obliged to refer a woman seeking an abortion to a doctor who provides the procedure. . . [Full Text]

What happens after Repeal?

The Phil wades into the Repeal discussion to question what will come if the 8th amendment is repealed

Trinity News

Georgina Francis

Last Tuesday, the Phil hosted “Beyond Repeal”. The Phil sought to discuss what will happen if the eighth amendment is repealed with a panel of highly respected and knowledgeable speakers.

Beginning with a brief introduction each of the speakers outlined their involvement with the campaign. Julie O’Donnell spoke first of her personal experience with a fetal abnormality in her pregnancy, revealing she “just felt so alone” and that she “thought I’d be treated in my own country”. After seeing the founders of Terminations for Medical Reasons (TFMR) O’Donnell contacted them and became involved. . . [Full Text]

Medical professionals will be able to object to providing terminations

GPs, obstetricians and gynaecologists will be allowed to conscientiously object

The Irish Times

Sarah Bardon

Medical professionals will be able to object to the administration of terminations under Government proposals.

Minister for Health Simon Harris has confirmed he will allow for GPs, obstetricians and gynaecologists to conscientiously object to providing terminations in medical settings. The Government is seeking to introduce legislation to allow for abortions up to 12 weeks and believes this should be a service led by GPs.

However those representing GPs are critical of the lack of engagement by Mr Harris on the proposed legislation.

The National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) said there has no consultation with GPs despite the assumption this service will be run by them . . . [Full Text]