Referendum on the Eighth Amendment

Amnesty International demands compulsory referral for abortion

Irish Times (Letter to the Editor)

Colm O’Gorman (Executive DIrector, Amnesty International Ireland

Sir, – Dr Andrew O’Regan (April 14th) has firm views on when health practitioners should be allow to refuse participate in abortion procedures if the referendum is passed. However, the limits he considers a trespass on practitioners’ rights are in fact how conscience-based refusal should be regulated in order to safeguard the patient’s rights too.

There is an important difference between conscientiously objecting to something – we all have a human right to thought, conscience and religion – and being allowed to act on that objection in a way that negatively impacts on others. . .

. . . So, yes, a health professional exercising conscience-based refusal should still have a duty to make a timely referral to another who will provide the service. . . . [Full text]

One thought on “Referendum on the Eighth Amendment”

  1. The assumption underlying Mr. Ogorman’s argument is not only that there can be no reasonable ethical or moral objection to abortion that could justify refusal to become a party to the act by facilitating it through referral, but that abortion is a moral/ethical procedure or benefit that a physician is obliged to provide or at least arrange for: hence her claim that refusing to refer for abortion amounts to patient abandonment.

    Precisely the same argument is now advanced in Canada to compel unwilling physicians to become parties to euthanasia and assisted suicide. Those who refuse to collaborate by referral are accused of patient abandonment and threatened with discipline, including expulsion from the medical profession.

    Quite apart from its fundamentalist assumptions, Mr. O’Gorman’s argument is a dress rehearsal for similar coercive measures in Ireland with respect to euthanasia and assisted suicide.

    A more balanced approach has since been taken in the Isle of Man, where the House of Keys passed an abortion reform bill with a protection of conscience provision. It requires practitioners to ensure that patients have enough information to find an non-objecting colleague, without requiring referral.

    For details concerning the death of Savita Halappanavar, see A “medical misadventure” in Ireland: Deaths of Savita & Prasa Halappanavar

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