Almost a month after the referendum passed to repeal Ireland’s constitutional right to life, Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has now stated that Catholic hospitals will be forced to perform abortions.
In 1983, Catholic Ireland recognized the right to life of the unborn after two thirds of the country voted on a national referendum to pass the Eighth Amendment, in contrast to most European countries at the time denying the right to life of the unborn. Just last month, Ireland again voted but this time on a referendum to repeal the Eight Amendment, with two thirds of the country voting to remove legal protections for the unborn.
A month after the results of the referendum came out, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar spoke to Dáil, the Irish Parliament, to clarify how the decision would impact publicly funded Catholic hospitals. He stated that while individuals will be able to opt out of performing abortions, entire hospitals will not be able to do so.
“Legislation will allow individuals to opt out based on their consciences or their religious convictions but will not allow institutions to do so. It will not be possible for publicly-funded hospitals, no matter who their patron or owner is, to opt out of providing these necessary services, which will be legal in this state once this legislation is passed by the Dáil (parliament) and Seanad (senate).”
Catholic religious orders own two of Dublin’s biggest hospitals. Saint Vincent’s University Hospital is owned by the Sisters of Charity, while the Sisters of Mary own the Mater Hospital. In Ireland, these “voluntary” hospitals are funded by charitable contributions, and have historic ties to the Church and follow Catholic moral theology.
In his statement to parliament, Varadkar said “I’m happy to give you that assurance,” in regards to forcing Catholic voluntary hospitals to perform abortions.
“Hospitals like for example Holles Street, which is a Catholic voluntary ethos hospital, the Mater, St Vincent’s and others will be required, and will be expected to, carry out any procedure that is legal in this state and that is the model we will follow.”
In response, Irish Bishops released a statement objecting to the proposal that doctors who abstained from performing abortions would have to provide a referral to a physician that would.
“It would be a great injustice to require doctors and nurses to participate, even by referral, in the provision of services which would be a serious violation of their conscience. This would only be a way of pretending to respect freedom of conscience while actually requiring one person to cooperate in what he or she sincerely believes is the wrong-doing of another. Such a presumption is at variance with the right to conscientious objection.”
In March earlier this year, a survey of physicians in Ireland asked if they would perform abortions: nearly 70 percent of the physicians asked responded that they would be unwilling to perform abortions.