The Eighth Amendment and right to conscientious objection

The Irish Times
(Letters to the editor)

Fiona de Londras

Sir, – Thomas Ryan (April 5th) claims that “Once the so-called “right to choose” is placed on legal footing, it is quickly transformed into the right to force people to pay for abortions and force medical professionals to perform them”.  . . .

The right to conscientious objection has been enjoyed by Irish medics, healthcare professionals, and pharmacists for many years. . . but doctors and pharmacists have always had the right to refuse to prescribe or dispense contraception and emergency contraception.

. . . The general scheme of the proposed post-repeal law explicitly protects individuals’ right to conscientiously abstain from direct provision of abortion care.

Mr Ryan appears to object to the continuing obligation to refer a patient to another health care professional . . . Any other approach would privilege the right of a medic in a way that abandons and does harm to the pregnant person. No system could realistically countenance so unbalanced an approach, and it is difficult to understand how one’s conscience could demand it. . . .[Full text]

One thought on “The Eighth Amendment and right to conscientious objection”

  1. The assumption underlying Professor de Londras’ argument is not only that there can be no reasonable ethical or moral objection to abortion that could justify refusal to become a party to the act by facilitating it through referral, but that abortion is a moral/ethical procedure or benefit that a physician is obliged to provide or at least arrange for: hence her claim that refusing to refer for abortion amounts to patient abandonment.

    Precisely the same argument is now advanced in Canada to compel unwilling physicians to become parties to euthanasia and assisted suicide. Those who refuse to collaborate by referral are accused of patient abandonment and threatened with discipline, including expulsion from the medical profession.

    Quite apart from its fundamentalist assumptions, Prof. de Londras argument is a dress rehearsal for similar coercive measures in Ireland with respect to euthanasia and assisted suicide.

    A more balanced approach has since been taken in the Isle of Man, where the House of Keys passed an abortion reform bill with a protection of conscience provision. It requires practitioners to ensure that patients have enough information to find an non-objecting colleague, without requiring referral.

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