Midwife voices fear for conscientious objectors if NI legislation changes
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]
Only doctors who are willing to perform abortions will be considered
for two consultant posts at Dublin’s National Maternity Hospital. The
hospital is advertising for a consultant anaesthetist and a consultant
in obstetrics and gynaecology.
According to a statement from the NMH the
positions include the “provision of termination-of-pregnancy services,
and are for individuals willing to contribute to the provision of these
A source at the hospital told the Irish Times
that conscientious objection guidelines for existing staff would remain
as they were before.
Baroness Nuala O’Loan, of Northern Ireland, recently warned that the Republic would be entering “uncharted territory” if it made willingness to perform abortions a condition of employment. What if doctors changed their mind, feeling in conscience that they could no longer participate in abortions, she asked.
After a referendum last year which allowed abortion to be legalised, Ireland is expanding its services quickly to provide abortions. The health department’s budget provides €7 million in funding for abortion services this year and €12 million in 2020.
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Catholic Universe-The Catholic Times
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]
With the Brexit legislation receiving the lion’s share of attention in Parliament, there has been little to no coverage on the progression of any other bill in recent months. This is usually the time of year where activity on private members’ bills (which have only a small chance of passing into law) winds down. However, with the current Parliamentary Session being extended to two years to deal with the magnitude of the Brexit legislation, we are in extraordinary times.
There is one such private member’s bill before the House of Lords which has seen a surprising ramp-up in activity over the last few months. The bill is sponsored by Baroness O’Loan – a widely respected legal mind from Northern Ireland who was the first Police Ombudsman – and will have its committee stage today, Friday. It is focused on the relatively niche area of protection of conscience for healthcare professionals. . . [Full text]
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]
Catholic News Agency
LONDON – A bill in the British Parliament would clarify the rights of conscientious objection for medical professionals, protecting them from participating in medical procedures to which their beliefs are opposed.
The Conscientious Objection (Medical Activities) Act 2017 would defend healthcare workers in England and Wales from partaking in the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment, IVF or similar fertility treatments, or abortion if they have a conscientious objection to doing so.
The bill, now at the committee stage in the House of Lords, was introduced by Baroness Nuala O’Loan, a peer from Northern Ireland, who believes medical professionals should not be discriminated against for their personal beliefs. . . [Full Text]
The House Magazine
Fiona Bruce, MP
Accommodation of conscientious objection is a long-respected matter of liberty and equality in this country. This respect should be as relevant today as ever, writes Fiona Bruce
The Conscientious Objection (Medical Activities) Bill is scheduled for Committee Stage in the House of Lords this Friday, and I have been watching its progress with interest. The Bill’s sponsor is Baroness Nuala O’Loan – a widely respected legal mind in the Lords who served as first Police Ombudsman in Northern Ireland, and is a former Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s Human Rights Inquiry. Among those who spoke in favour of the Bill at Second Reading were the former Conservative Lord Chancellor, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, and senior Conservative Peers Lord Elton, Baroness Eaton and the renowned surgeon, Lord McColl of Dulwich. . . [Full text]
A Northern Ireland-based peer is championing a bill which aims to protect the freedom of conscience for medical professionals.
The Conscientious Objection (Medical Activities) Bill is designed to grant protection to healthcare workers – including doctors, midwives, nurses, and pharmacists – who object on grounds of conscience to being asked to participate in end-of-life treatment.
In practice, this could see medics opting out of any involvement in abortion services.
Professionals could be excused from taking part in the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment, and could also refuse to participate in any aspect of IVF treatment. . . [Full text]
Doctors are expected to have integrity. Does this not entail that they should do what they think is right?
Something interesting is happening in the House of Lords. Baroness O’Loan’s Conscientious Objection (Medical Activities) Bill, now at the committee stage, has put on the agenda an issue which well-deserves to be there. Its point is simple: all healthcare professionals should have a legal right to opt out of certain procedures which they find objectionable. It specifies three areas: abortion provision, withdrawal of life-saving treatment, and actions relating to certain reproductive technologies.
This is not particularly radical; the 1967 Abortion Act already explicitly protects conscientious objection. Indeed, it could even be asked why this should, in a country with a tradition of liberty like ours, even be up for debate. Do we really need law to protect the right to conscience?
Sadly, it has become clear that we do. Armchair philosophers have been discussing the merits of forcing doctors and nurses to act against their conscience (or lose their jobs) over the last few years. Many papers against conscience have been published. . . [Full Text]
Is it really such a radical idea to think healthcare professionals should not be forced to help in procedures to which they morally object?
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]