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Conscience provisions undermined by recent medical ads, bishops say

By Susan Gately - 15 March, 2019

The Catholic Bishops’ conference of Ireland has criticised recent advertisements for consultants in obstetrics/gynaecology and anaesthesia at the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin, which require applicants to be ready to carry out elective abortions.

In a statement released at the conclusion of their spring general meeting on Wednesday evening, the bishops said this precondition ran “totally counter to a doctor’s constitutional and human right to freedom of conscience”.

A doctor who is eminently qualified to work as a consultant in these fields is denied employment in these roles because of their conscience, the bishops said in their statement.

“Doctors who are pro-life and who may have spent over a decade training in these areas and who may otherwise be the best candidate for these positions are now advised that, should they apply, they would not be eligible for consideration. This totally undermines the whole concept of freedom of conscience which was guaranteed in the recent legislation.”

Advertisements for the posts in the National Maternity Hospital appeared in national papers in mid-February. They included the phrase: “The post-holders will provide in-patient, on call service and out-patient care along with teaching, administration and management duties, which as of 2019 includes elective termination of pregnancy services and the post holders will be expected to contribute to this new service as part of their practice plan.

“The consequence for the entire training and recruitment of doctors to work in these positions in hospitals in Ireland is greatly undermined by these advertisements,” said the bishops.

Responding to the bishops, a spokesman for the National Maternity Hospital said conscientious objection guidelines for staff in both hospitals remain unchanged and future posts would not be affected. “These particular additional posts are being funded from a specific financial allocation from the HSE to the hospital for the very specific purpose of providing termination of pregnancy services.”

In a tweet yesterday, David Quinn of the Iona Institute said that comparing abortion to other medical specialisms was “deeply misleading”.

“How many other medical specialisms involve deliberately ending a human life?”

At the spring general meeting the bishops appointed Bishop Kevin Doran of Elphin as the chairman of the newly established Council for Life and Fr Dermot Meehan, Administrator of the Diocese of Achonry, as a member of the same council.

Explaining the objective of the Council of Life, Bishop Doran said it would give “priority to exploring how best, in the current socio-cultural context, the Catholic community can offer practical support to women in crisis pregnancy, giving their unborn babies the best chance at life”.

The Council of Life will also set as a priority, explaining life questions to young people and “engaging them in the challenge of defending life”.

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