Conscientious Objection in Ireland
Testimony before the Joint Committee on the Constitution (Chomhchoiste
ar an mBunreacht)
Parliament of Ireland (Tithe an Oireachtas)
Wednesday, May 3rd, 2000
During hearings considering the abortion law in
Ireland, the Joint Committee heard from Dr. Declan Keane, Master of the
National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street. This is the biggest
maternity hospital in Europe, with over 8,000 births annually. One of
the questions put to Dr. Keane elicited comments about the extent of
conscientious objection among Irish gynaecologists.
Dr. Keane's testimony led to the making of a
by the Protection of Conscience Project to the Irish
parliamentary committee. [Administrator]
Deputy McManus: There is one last question I'd like to ask and it
is a more general question. I appreciate and respect fully your views, and
any doctor being faced with having to carry out abortions is put in a
difficult position. . . In this country we have, relatively speaking, a high
level of pregnancies ending in abortion - it now appears to be around 12%.
That is a reality. There is another approach to simply turning a blind eye
and having what I would feel are deficiencies. . . Do you think there is any
merit in us developing a different type of policy concentrating on reducing
the level of abortion, of actually facing up to what is happening anyway and
having a policy where we would aim to reduce abortions among Irish women,
but that we also provide for that possibility here in Ireland, because we
can't shut it down completely?
Dr. Keane: If you are asking me, as I think you are, whether we
need to face up to this problem sooner or later and perform terminations in
this country instead of people travelling to the UK, I think that will be
something that obstetricians would feel extremely uncomfortable with in this
country because, at the end of the day, the people who would be asked to
carry out the terminations of pregnancy are the gynaecologists in this
country, and as I've mentioned already, you know, for religious, moral and
ethical reasons most of my colleagues would be extremely unhappy to be asked
to do so. In fact most, I am sure, would not do it. I would almost go as far
as to say that even if it came under the legal and the law----- Indeed, if
you take the UK, the law is that you can do termination of pregnancies and
yet all of us who worked over in the UK had a moral opt out for not
performing it and we didn't. I would consider that even if a legal right ...
if the politicians decided tomorrow to bring in termination on demand-----
Deputy McManus: I didn't say on demand.
Dr. Keane: No, what I'm saying is that if it turned around and
that this was the case I would think the vast majority of my gynaecology
colleagues would be conscientious objectors to taking any part in that.
Note: Full text of Dr. Keane's testimony was posted at
http://www.irlgov.ie/oireachtas/frame.htm, but the page appears to have