National Maternity Hospital

Sir, – You report that Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly told the Oireachtas Health Committee that "all procedures" legal in the State relating to women's reproductive healthcare are "permitted at St Vincent's [Hospital] at present" ("National Maternity Hospital: Government not looking at another site, –says Donnelly", July 14th).

In the context of the discussions at the committee session on the proposed new National Maternity Hospital, these procedures would include direct abortion, tubal ligation and IVF. I am sure the Minister made this statement in good faith, but if so it would mean that St Vincent’s is unique among Catholic hospitals in the world in providing these services.

I do not think I am alone in finding these claims difficult to believe. As far as I am aware, all the hospitals in St Vincent’s Healthcare Group (SVHG) are today governed by the Religious Sisters of Charity Health Service Philosophy and Ethical Code, last updated in April 2010.

Section Three of the code explicitly states: “Direct abortion is never permitted since it constitutes the intentional killing of the unborn . . . Direct sterilisation of either men or women is not permitted in our healthcare service when its sole immediate objective is to prevent or eliminate fertility . . . Extracorporeal conception as is attained, for example, in the process of IVF, bypasses the marital act and is not acceptable in our healthcare services.”


The Minister was responding to concerns expressed by committee members about Catholic ethos at the new NMH.

Given the disparity between what the Minister said and the contents of the Ethical Code of the Sisters, I suggest that SVHG could aid progress on the project by making available the following information:

1) On what date did SVHG hospitals cease to operate the Sisters’ Health Service Philosophy and Ethical Code? It would be especially helpful if we could see a copy of internal communication to staff on the issue.

2) Could SVHG inform the Minister as to the number of direct abortions performed at their hospitals since January 1st, 2019, under the terms of the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act, 2018, and what sections of the Act?

3) How many tubal ligations and vasectomies for the purposes of direct sterilisation were performed at SVHG in the last year?

4) How many IVF procedures were performed at SVHG hospitals in the past year?

In the absence of hard data, I do not believe that unverified assurances will suffice in allaying public and political concern about the current proposals for the new €800 million publicly funded maternity hospital. – Yours etc,


Dublin 6.