Nurses petition Irish govenment on freedom of conscience

shutterstock 1148671784 The office of the Taoiseach in Dublin, Ireland. | Daniel M Bradley_Shutterstock

Irish nurses and midwives have called on the government to protect their freedom of conscience following the legalization of abortion in the Republic of Ireland.


The group Nurses and Midwives 4Life Ireland presented a petition Nov. 27 to the Irish Health Minister, Simon Harris, signed by 350 registered nurses and midwives. In it, they asked Harris to ensure that they are not forced to participate in abortion procedures when they are introduced into the country's healthcare system.


"We are dedicated, hardworking nurses and midwives who care for patients from conception to natural death," the petition reads.


"We have a conscientious commitment to life which accords with the values inherent in Our Code of Professional Conduct and Ethics. We respect and defend the dignity of every stage of human life and we have a responsibility to make every valid or reasonable effort to protect the life and health of pregnant women and their unborn babies."


Nurses 4Life say that they are concerned that the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018 will obligate nurses to participate in abortions. The group defines participation as "any supervision, delegation, planning or supporting of staff involved in termination of pregnancy," and says they worry that nurses who support the right to life of the unborn will be "victimized" in the workplace as abortion is made legal.


A press release from the group said that the Irish Nurses and Midwifery Organisation and Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland had been "inundated" with questions about how they would be affected by legalized abortion.


The text of the petition calls the situation an "unprecedented crisis in the Health Service" and says that the government has made "no effort" to consult the nursing or midwifery professions on the clinical implications of the new law.


Mary Kelly, a spokesperson for the group, told the Irish Examiner that while they had requested a meeting with the Health Minister, they had yet to receive a response.


"We really haven't had a lot of consultation, our group has asked to meet the Minister and [Leader of the Opposition] Micheál Martin to ask what it is going to be like for us and how is the freedom of conscience going to work, because we are concerned with the way it's worded in the actual act."

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In their petition, Nurses 4Life highlighted the case of Mary Doogan and Connie Wood, two Catholic midwives in Scotland who lost a court case to preserve their freedom of conscience after they were ordered to supervise and support fellow midwives who perform abortions.


That case was eventually heard by the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, which ruled against the midwives.

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