Bishop says anti-abortion doctors will be ‘railroaded out of practice’

Alphonsus Cullinan says doctors should be able to opt in or out of the scheme if they wish

The Bishop of Waterford and Lismore, Alphonsus Cullinan has warned that doctors who conscientiously object to abortion ‘will be railroaded out of practice’.  Photograph: Diocese of Limerick

The Bishop of Waterford and Lismore, Alphonsus Cullinan has warned that doctors who conscientiously object to abortion ‘will be railroaded out of practice’. Photograph: Diocese of Limerick

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The Bishop of Waterford and Lismore, Alphonsus Cullinan has warned that doctors who conscientiously object to abortion “will be railroaded out of practice”.

He told radio station WLR on Tuesday “that’s the stark reality. It affects not just doctors, but midwives, pharmacists, all people who will be directly involved with the provision of something, if they don’t agree with it.”

Dr Cullinan said freedom of conscience was a human right under the UN declaration of human rights.

He said the Government could choose a system such as exists in New Zealand where doctors can opt in or out of the scheme if they wish.

“So we’ll see if we are really in a pluralistic society where people’s consciences are respected.”

Dr Cullinan said doctors, even if the conscientiously object to abortion, will have to refer the woman to someone whom they know will carry out the abortion “Now that’s like saying ‘I won’t pull the trigger, but I’ll give the gun to the next guy’, knowing that he or she will pull the trigger. That is not respecting the right of freedom of conscience of the individual.

“We have the Government stepping in here between a person and their conscience. It is a huge issue and it is wider than just the abortion issue.

“In years to come, where will they stop? If the Government gets away with stepping in between a person and his or her conscience in this area, what will they do next?”

The bishop said this was an issue that does not just affect Catholics or believers. He quoted a Buddy Poll which said that 75 per cent of doctors said abortion should not be GP-led, and over 50 per cent don’t want to be involved in the provision of abortion.

“The health service is struggling as it is, how is government going to provide for free abortions, when it’s already creaking?” he asked.

Dr Cullinan called for everybody’s conscience to be respected. He said in the UK any one who was anti-abortion could not become a consultant in obstetrics and gynaecology.

“I know of one GP in Ireland who saw the writing on the wall and has gone out of practice, into an area of medicine where abortion is not going to be an issue. “That’s the kind of thing that’s going to happen. Pro-life doctors are going to choose areas of medicine where they know they’re not going to forced into doing something that they don’t believe in.”

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