Irish Doctors Enraged at Forced Participation in Abortions

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by David Nussman  •  •  December 4, 2018   

General practitioners storm out of meeting in protest

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DUBLIN ( - Dozens of doctors in Ireland stormed out of a meeting about the new abortion bill, claiming their concerns were being ignored.

On Sunday, the Irish College of General Practitioners held an "Extraordinary General Meeting" at the Grand Hotel Malahide in Dublin. A number of doctors in attendance staged a walk-out about 30 minutes into the meeting to express outrage over the abortion legislation that could soon become law in Ireland.

Some of those who walked out felt the new policy is being shaped without listening to the concerns of the medical community. Some also feared that they could be required by the new law to participate in abortions.

Doctor Andrew O'Regan spoke for the group of doctors that walked out, telling the press, "We feel disrespected and not listened to by our own college board." 

He noted that the general practitioners who walked out had diverse views of abortion itself but all felt that the college was ignoring their voices and failing to be truly democratic.


He said the Irish College of General Practitioners has faced increased division over the issue of abortion, "and it's a division that was not of our making. This is a division that has come from being ignored time after time after time."

O'Regan said they would petition the college to have a new extraordinary general meeting "where the substantive issues are debated and where votes will happen."

"Today was a talking shop," he opined.

At one point, O'Regan criticized Minister for Health Simon Harris for proposing that general practitioners perform abortions, saying, "The very false impression has been created [by] the Minister for Health that general practice is a suitable setting for abortion provision."

Harris is pro-abortion and introduced the new abortion legislation to Ireland's parliament. In July, he confirmed that the new abortion law in Ireland will force Catholic hospitals to provide abortions, stating in a tweet, "Conscientious objection is for individuals, not institutions."

Also in that tweet, the minister for health referred to this version of conscience protection as "a statement of the obvious."

Regarding the doctors' protest on Sunday, Fiona McHugh of Nurses and Midwives 4 Life told the press that Harris has not listened to the concerns of pro-life medical professionals. She complained, "We've had no meetings with Minister Harris at all."

McHugh noted that with "any service that is new to healthcare, there would be talk about how this is going to happen."

“None of this has happened," she said. "We're completely and utterly in the dark."

We're completely and utterly in the dark.

Even among those who support abortion in the Republic of Ireland, many are concerned that the nation's doctors, hospitals and clinics will not be ready to offer abortion when the new policy takes effect. For example, Mary Favier of pro-abortion Doctors for Choice said in October that the Department of Health's planning was "a shambles," adding, "There's been no clinical lead appointments. There's been no technical round tables established. There's been effectively no meetings held."

One Irish doctor, Illona Duffy, told RTE Radio that Ireland's proposed policy to have general practitioners offering abortion is highly unusual, as most countries where abortion is legal have designated facilities that primarily offer abortion. Duffy said, "GPs [general practitioners] will be left dealing with this complicated process. This is being done without consultation and without taking our concerns into consideration."

In a referendum in May, Irish voters decided overwhelmingly to remove the country's Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution, which had protected the right to life of pre-born babies. This gave Irish politicians the task of constructing new legislation to broadly decriminalize abortion. 

The legislation making its way through Ireland's parliament, the "Regulation of the Termination of Pregnancy Bill," would allow abortion up to the 12th week of pregnancy and calls for abortions to be funded completely by taxpayer dollars.

The "general scheme" of the bill does give doctors, nurses and midwives the right to conscientiously object to abortion — but with a notable exception. It appears that this exemption for reasons of conscience does not apply in cases where a doctor determines that the pregnant woman faces "an immediate risk" to her health connected to the pregnancy.

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