The Irish Bishops’ Conference has objected to job requirements mandating that certain consultant doctors be willing to participate in abortions, saying that the country’s new abortion law had promised to safeguard conscience rights for medical professionals.
“This precondition runs totally counter to a doctor’s constitutional and human right to freedom of conscience,” said the bishops, according to Irish Catholic.
“This totally undermines the whole concept of freedom of conscience which was guaranteed in the recent legislation,” they added.
In a statement following their Spring 2019 General Meeting in Maynooth, the bishops of Ireland addressed an advertisement for two consultants at the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin. As a job requirement, the candidates for the Obstetrics/Gynecology and Anesthesia positions must be willing to take part in abortions.
The bishops’ conference said these preconditions may rule out the best possible person for the job by eliminating candidates solely because they are unwilling to perform abortions.
“A doctor who is eminently qualified to work as a consultant in these fields is denied employment in these roles because of his/her conscience,” said the bishops, according to RTE.
“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," they said.
A spokesman for the National Maternity Hospital argued that the specific posts were funded by the Health Service Executive, a government agency, for the purpose of abortions.
“They are therefore for individuals willing to contribute to the provision of these services. Other past and future posts are not affected. The conscientious objection guidelines for staff in both hospitals remain unchanged,” the spokesman said, according to RTE.
Once a majority-Catholic and pro-life contingent, voters in Ireland last May voted to repeal the Eighth Amendment to their constitution, which had banned abortion. General practitioners are now allowed to perform abortions up to nine weeks and hospitals are allowed to perform the procedure up to 12 weeks of pregnancy.
The repeal has already led to concerns about freedom of conscience for medical professionals. At least 640 general practitioners in Ireland signed a petition in November objecting to the new obligation of referring patients to other doctors for abortions.
The majority of the country's 2,500 general practitioners (GP) are unwilling to perform abortions. Only between 4 and 6 percent of GPs have said they would participate in the procedure.
The nation’s bishops recommitted themselves to helping pregnant women find the resources they need and educating those interested in apologetics defending life. To further these goals, the bishops have created a new Council for Life, led by Bishop Kevin Doran of Elphin.
“The council will 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,” Bishop Doran said, according to Irish Catholic.
“It will also give priority to promoting an understanding of life questions among young people and to engaging them in the challenge of defending life.”