Doctors’ right to conscientious objection will become a “flashpoint” in efforts to protect the lives of unborn children against the background of looming abortion legislation, pro-life GPs have said.
“We may have lost the battle on the Eighth but the new battle is to protect freedom of conscience,” Dr Valerie Morris told The Irish Catholic, pointing to how a conference in Tullamore at the end of the month should help doctors to discuss the issue of conscientious objection under the Government’s proposed abortion regime.
The day-long conference, to be held in the Tullamore Court Hotel on September 29, will include such speakers as Dr Brendan Crowley, Dr John Kehoe, and nurse Carolyn O’Meara, and is intended to provide a meeting point to enable doctors and others involved in healthcare to consider their concerns around the planned legislation.
“Hopefully there’ll be an exchange of views about how we can best balance the interests of everybody concerned and make sure that we have a right to conscientious objection,” Dr Orla Halpenny told this paper, explaining that general practice is envisaged as the frontline for abortion access in Minister Simon Harris’s draft legislation.
“If the legislation goes ahead the frontline will be general practice, so general practitioners and other doctors involved will – according to the legislation proposed before the referendum – be obliged to refer even if they themselves do not want to be involved in the procedure,” she said.
This would mean cooperating in the abortion process, she continued.
“And by referral, in medical terms that implies taking some degree of responsibility for the outcome, because otherwise you wouldn’t refer a patient onwards,” she said. “You’re taking responsibility for the next step. So that’s a degree of responsibility for an objectionable procedure in the eyes of most of the doctors involved, who do not wish to refer and they will not refer.”
Conflicts are inevitable around this, she said.
“That is going to be a flashpoint if patients come to their GPs and the GPs make their position of conscientious objection known. And then what is the next step? The GP would have to refuse to refer.”