Irish health care has a long held tradition of in cases of pregnancy treating both patients, the expectant mother and her developing child. We are concerned with the current legal position which doctors and health care professionals, who hold an ethical objection to abortion find themselves. It is our interpretation of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013 that if an expectant mother presents with suicidal ideation and requests an abortion, as their doctor we are placed in the unenviable position of collaborating in facilitating that mother to procure that abortion either directly by sending her for assessment for the abortion or indirectly by referring her to another clinician who we know will send her for the abortion- this is despite the wealth of evidence showing that abortion is extremely detrimental to the mental health of the mother if she is in any of the at risk groups (list) and that there is no evidence of any beneficial effects from abortion. We have a duty as doctors, and health care professionals, to do what is in the best interests of our patients yet the law is obliging us to facilitate the killing of one patient and possibly causing inestimable damage to the other.
The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013 in reference to Conscientious objection outlined the following:
17.(1) Subject to subsections (2) and (3), nothing in this Act shall be construed as obliging any medical practitioner, nurse or midwife to carry out, or to assist in carrying out, any medical procedure referred to in section 7(1) or 9(1) to which he or she has a conscientious objection.
(2) Subsection (1) shall not be construed to affect any duty to participate in any medical procedure referred to in section 8(1).
(3) A person who has a conscientious objection referred to in subsection (1) shall make such arrangements for the transfer of care of the pregnant woman concerned as may be necessary to enable the woman to avail of the medical procedure concerned.
This is in direct contradiction to Bunreacht na hEireann Article 44.2.1º : Freedom of conscience and the free profession and practice of religion are, subject to public order and morality, guaranteed to every citizen.
Doctors for Life Ireland are concerned about implications for healthcare professionals who wish to exercise their right to conscientious objection.