Baroness Nuala O’Loan has refuted the claims of Ireland’s Health Minister that conscientious objection is “for individuals, not institutions”, and that he should consider the need to protect hospitals from coercion.
Before and since the Eighth Amendment was repealed the decision to opt out of providing abortion by way of conscientious objection, without repercussion, has been a prominent issue particularly among medical staff.
“Those who train to be obstetricians and gynaecologists do not train with a view to terminating the life of the unborn child other than in the most exceptional circumstances and departments should not be forced to do this,” Baroness O’Loan said.
If the State chooses to provide abortion in other circumstances, she said, it should provide them through those who are content to be employed to do so rather than “imposing an obligation on existing institutions”.
The baroness quoted the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly’s Resolution 1763 which states: “No person, hospital or institution shall be coerced, held liable or discriminated against in any manner because of a refusal to perform, accommodate, assist or submit to an abortion.”
It is non-binding, she said, but it reaffirms the normative understanding of freedom of conscience.