New Northern Ireland abortion law ‘may give health staff no choice’

Midwife voices fear for conscientious objectors if NI legislation changes

Belfast Telegraph

Allan Preston

Health workers in Northern Ireland could be left “exposed” by changes to abortion law, a lecturer in midwifery has claimed.

Debbie Duncan spent over 30 years working as a midwife in Scotland and England and now lectures at the school of nursing and midwifery at Queen’s University Belfast.

She was never obliged to take part in abortions during her career as the law allowed her to conscientiously object.

Ms Duncan said she fears “too much change with no regulation” means the same protections may not apply here. . . [Full text]

Over 1,300 nursing and midwifery posts in Irish hospitals are being left vacant

One in six midwifery posts are being left vacant.

thejournal.ie

Rónán Duffy

THERE ARE OVER 1,300 vacant nursing and midwifery posts in Irish hospitals due to the HSE’s effective recruitment freeze, the INMO has said today.

Phil Ní Sheaghdha of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation has said the figures demonstrate that the government is “refusing to fill frontline healthcare posts” and that patient care is being compromise as a result. . . [Full text]

Labour Court clarifies freedoms of religion and conscience in healthcare sector

Wistrand International Law Office

Jörgen Larsson

Introduction

Sweden is one of the most secular countries in the world with full freedom of religion. Further, freedom of conscience is a right protected by the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). However, domestic law recognises no right to conscientious objection. In this respect, Sweden differs from most other European countries.

In 2017 the Labour Court clarified from an employment law perspective whether freedom of conscience gives healthcare professionals a right to conscientious objection.

Facts

A midwife expressed that her religious beliefs forbid her from performing abortion services. When she expressed her opinion, three different healthcare regions in Sweden refused to employ her. The midwife brought the case to the Equality Ombudsman, which found that her refusal to perform abortion services was a manifestation of her religious beliefs and was thus protected by Article 9 of the ECHR. The Equality Ombudsman also found that the healthcare regions’ requirement that the midwife perform abortion services was reasonable and motivated by social interests in order to secure women’s effective access to abortion services. Therefore, the midwife’s freedom of religion had not been violated. . . . Full Text

‘Intentionally ending the life of an innocent baby does not treat any illness’

Nurses say proposed abortion legislation could mean nurses giving up jobs on conscience grounds

The Irish Times

Patsy McGarry

Proposed abortion legislation could force nurses and midwives out of a job, it has been claimed.

Campaigners for a No vote in the referendum on the Eight Amendment say the conscience clause promised by the Government in legislation if the measure passes is inadequate.

“We are concerned about freedom of conscience and have seen how Scottish midwives lost their case in the UK not to be involved in abortions,” said Mary Kelly Fitzgibbon, of Nurses for Life, a nurse, midwife and a lecturer. . . [Full Text]

INMO warns nurses could strike if pay demands are not met

RTE

Ingird Miley

Nurses and midwives could strike if their pay demands are not met with salary increases in 2019, according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation.

Speaking at its annual conference in Cork, General Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said that the union is awaiting publication of a Public Service Pay Commission review of staff shortages among nurses and midwives, which is due next month.

Within the following month, the INMO is due to meet the Government to discuss implementation of the PSPC recommendations to address the difficulties with recruitment and retention.

However, Ms Ní Sheaghdha warned that, if members rejected proposals emanating from those negotiations, the INMO will ballot them for industrial action – “up to and including the withdrawal of their labour”.

An emergency motion to that effect will be debated at the conference tomorrow. . . [Full Text]

Abortion: INMO calls for conscientious objection safeguards

Nurses union has had no discussions to date with HSE about the implications of repeal

The Irish times

Barry Roche

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation expects the same conscientious objection protections that exist for nurses under the Protection of Life in Pregnancy Act to be afforded to nurses and midwives in any forthcoming legislation in the event of the Eighth Amendment being repealed.

INMO director of social policy and regulation Edward Matthews said that nurses and midwives are afforded the same protections as medical practitioners when it comes to conscientious objection to carrying out a termination of pregnancy. . . [Full Text]

Conscientious objection to participation in abortion by midwives and nurses: a systematic review of reasons

Valerie Fleming Lucy Frith, Ans Luyben, Beate Ramsayer

Abstract

Background

Freedom of conscience is a core element of human rights respected by most European countries. It allows abortion through the inclusion of a conscience clause, which permits opting out of providing such services. However, the grounds for invoking conscientious objection lack clarity. Our aim in this paper is to take a step in this direction by carrying out a systematic review of reasons by midwives and nurses for declining, on conscience grounds, to participate in abortion.

Method

We conducted a systematic review of ethical arguments asking, “What reasons have been reported in the argument based literature for or against conscientious objection to abortion provision by nurses or midwives?” We particularly wanted to identify any discussion of the responsibilities of midwives and nurses in this area. Search terms were conscientious objection and abortion or termination and nurse or midwife or midwives or physicians or doctors or medics within the dates 2000–2016 on: HEIN legal, Medline, CINAHL, Psychinfo, Academic Search Complete, Web of Science including publications in English, German and Dutch. Final articles were subjected to a rigorous analysis, coding and classifying each line into reason mentions, narrow and broad reasons for or against conscientious objection.

Results

Of an initial 1085 articles, 10 were included. We identified 23 broad reasons, containing 116narrow reasons and 269 reason mentions. Eighty one (81) narrow reasons argued in favour of and 35 against conscientious objection. Using predetermined categories of moral, practical, religious or legal reasons, “moral reasons” contained the largest number of narrow reasons (n =  58). The reasons and their associated mentions in this category outnumber those in the sum of the other three categories.

Conclusions

We identified no absolute argument either for or against conscientious objection by midwives or nurses. An invisibility of midwives and nurses exists in the whole debate concerning conscientious objection reflecting a gap between literature and practice, as it is they whom WHO recommend as providers of this service. While the arguments in the literature emphasize the need for provision of conscientious objection, a balanced debate is necessary in this field, which includes all relevant health professionals.


Fleming V, Frith L, Luyben A, Ramsayer B. Conscientious objection to participation in abortion by midwives and nurses: a systematic review of reasons. BMC Medical Ethics. 2018;19:31. doi:10.1186/s12910-018-0268-3.

Loss of right to conscience costing NHS new midwives it needs

Catholic Universe-The Catholic Times

Nick Benson

Pro-life groups have claimed that the recent drop in applications to midwifery courses could be rectified by enshrining conscientious objection.

Recent figures show that there has been a 35 per cent drop in the number of applicants to midwifery courses since 2013. The Royal College of Midwives (RCM), which analysed the latest Ucas data for England, said the biggest reduction was in those aged 21 or over.

In 2013, more than 12,000 people aged over 21 applied for a midwifery course in England, but by 2017 that figure had dropped to just 6,700 – a decrease of 45 per cent. . . [Full text]

Bill to give medical staff right to refuse role in abortions condemned

The Guardian

Tim Wyatt

Pro-choice groups have condemned an attempt to create new laws that would allow doctors and nurses to refuse to take part in abortions on moral grounds.

A private bill going through the House of Lords that would expand rights of conscientious objection for healthcare professionals has been dismissed as unnecessary by abortion providers and campaigners.

Those in favour of the bill, sponsored by the Northern Irish crossbench peer Nuala O’Loan, insisted their aim was not to restrict abortion but to uphold freedom of belief and religion they claim is under threat in hospitals since a contentious supreme court ruling in 2014. . . [Full text]

 

Why we must protect the conscience rights of medical professionals

Is it really such a radical idea to think healthcare professionals should not be forced to help in procedures to which they morally object?

Catholic Herald

Prof. Andrew Tettenborn

Just over three years ago, two devout Catholic midwives lost an important claim in the courts. Disciplined for declining to make arrangements for abortions in a Glasgow maternity ward, they sued, saying that the Abortion Act’s conscience clause allowed them to refuse to participate in the procedure. The Supreme Court, combining an impressive capacity for casuistry with a matching unconcern for moral consistency, chose to define “participation” as meaning carrying out the abortion, and nothing more. Organising, managing and aiding other people to do it was quite different; there was no right to refuse to do it.

The point matters a great deal. Many NHS hospitals now put abortion and other controversial procedures out to tender (a matter itself a cause for concern, though not here), and so organisation rather than participation is increasingly what will be demanded from often unwilling staff. . . [Full Text]