Mater ‘won’t be performing abortions’, religious board member stresses

Resignation of Fr Kevin Doran from Mater Hospital a ‘great loss’, says colleague

One of two nuns on the board of the Mater hospital in Dublin has stressed it “won’t be performing abortions” following the introduction of the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act.

Sr Eugene Nolan, nurse tutor at the hospital, described as "a tragedy" and "huge loss" the resignation of another religious director of the institution, Fr Kevin Doran, over the hospital's plans to comply with the new legislation.

She said yesterday evening she was still considering her response to the decision by the hospital to comply with the Act.

However, she said: “The Mater won’t be performing abortions. This is a matter of how we deal with complicated situations.”


There had been five babies delivered at the Mater in the last 12 months, following the transfer of pregnant women with serious complications from the Rotunda hospital, she said.

"The women had serious heart conditions. I guarantee you in England those babies would not have been born, the pregnancies would have been terminated. We deal with complicated situations, we do not set out to lose babies. If we do lose babies it's not because we set out to," she said. "A dose of reality is needed here."

Fr Doran had previously said the Mater could “not comply” with the legislation as it ran counter to its Catholic ethos.

He told the Irish Catholic newspaper yesterday he could not in conscience continue as a member of the hospital board of directors or board of governors. "I can confirm that I have resigned because I can't reconcile my own conscience personally with the statement, largely because I feel a Catholic hospital has to bear witness . . . to Gospel values alongside providing excellent care."

Sr Eugene, a former midwife who worked in England and Kenya before returning to the Mater in 1981, said of Fr Doran's resignation: "It's a tragedy that's he's gone. We will certainly miss him. He has been with the hospital for many years. He is a huge loss."

She too expressed concerns about the Act at the time of Fr Doran’s statement in August, saying it was “against our ethos”.

Asked her position now, she said: “I don’t know where we go now. I’m going to see. I will see what is said.”

The other members of the hospital’s board of directors are: John Morgan, Sr Margherita Rock, Prof Conor O’Keane, Mary Day, Caroline Pigott, Dr Mary Carmel Burke, Martin Cowley, Don Mahony, Prof Brendan Kinsley, Thomas Lynch and Eddie Shaw.

The Mater last week issued a statement saying it would comply with the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act, which sets out the circumstances where an abortion can be performed to save a woman’s life.

The Act names the Mater as one of 25 “appropriate institutions” for the carrying out of abortions. The Mater is one of two Catholic voluntary hospitals on the list – the other being St Vincent’s University Hospital in Dublin, which also said it would comply with the Act.

The question of the hospital’s compliance with the Act had been discussed at an “exhausting four-hour” meeting of the board of directors on September 17th, Sr Eugene said.

Legal challenge
Among the options discussed was a legal challenge to the Act. "But we don't have the money to take on the Government. We are caught and we are back to 'He who pays the piper calls the tune'. What could we do? Go down to the orthopaedic ward and say: 'There'll be no more hip replacements because we have to mount a legal challenge'?"

The issue was also an “extremely difficult one” for the Sisters of Mercy, founders of the hospital in 1861 and still majority members of its parent company the Mater Misericordiae and the Children’s University Hospitals (Temple St) Ltd.

“I don’t know what the sisters will do,” she said. A spokesman for the Sisters of Mercy said there was “no comment”.

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times