Protection of Conscience Project
Protection of Conscience Project
Service, not Servitude

Service, not Servitude

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 submission 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.