Conscientious objection


Sir, – Máiréad Enright, in her letter on conscientious objection to abortion (October 19th) states that the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018 says that if a doctor has a conscientious objection and will not carry out an abortion, he or she must “refer her to someone who can”.

This is incorrect. The doctor must refer the patient to another doctor for treatment, but the first doctor cannot guarantee that the second doctor will follow any particular clinical course of action.

A patient might be subjected to an endless chain of referrals from one doctor to another, rendering the abortion service unattainable. Indeed a group of pro-life doctors could block abortions by only referring patients to each other, yet technically remain within ethical guidelines.

A solution to this predicament would be to abandon the current GP referral system and to allow patients to contact the abortion unit in their local maternity hospital. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 3.

A chara, – Máiréad Enright states that “section 23 of the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018 will allow doctors to refuse to provide abortion care”. She adds that pharmacists and other healthcare professionals will not be “required to assist in performing an abortion”.

First, the Bill only refers to medical practitioners – nurses and midwives. There is no mention of pharmacists or any other healthcare workers. Therefore, it is not surprising that, due to the lack of clarity in this Bill, so many people are deeply concerned about their jobs and their lives, in terms of potential legal or moral ramifications.

Second, she says that nobody will be forced to “sign a form” allowing a patient to access an abortion. Not so. A referral from a GP is an official document. According to the Medical Council, a referral involves sending a patient to another doctor to get treatment. Through this Bill, the State is telling all GPs that they will have to sign an official document which effectively implicates them in sending their patient to have an abortion – a procedure which they may deem to be medically unnecessary or that goes against their conscience.

Ms Enright believes that by forcing all GPs to refer, it will ensure that women can access abortion within the “strict 12-week time-limit”.

This logic is flawed. Instead of having to visit two GPs, would it not be more expedient to go directly to one GP who has opted-in to providing abortion services?

If Ireland adopted New Zealand’s approach to the provision of abortion services, there would be no conflicts for any person seeking an elective abortion, nor for any GP.

Ms Enright implies that a doctor cannot exercise their right to freedom of conscience when it puts a pregnant woman’s life or health at serious risk, but she omits any reference to the health of the other life – which is most certainly “at risk” of being ended.

It is unconscionable to demand that any person should have to play any role in ending any life, anywhere.

This seems to be difficult for some people to grasp.

Arguments that compare “abortion care” to medical treatments – or opinions that refer to “equal access” in the context of a pregnant person seeking to end the life of their baby/foetus – are never going to hold any true weight, because they deliberately and consistently exclude any perspective from the life that is intentionally being ended. I will, however, agree with one thing that Ms Enright said in her letter – that GPs and their patients deserve dignity. Indeed, each and every one of them. – Is mise,


Béal an Mhuirthead,

Co Mhaigh Eo.