Midwives and nurses who object to participating in abortions hit out at Minister's refusal to meet

Midwives and nurses who object to participating in abortions hit out at Minister's refusal to meet
File image of hospital ward

The Nurses&Midwives4Life Ireland group have claimed that Minister for Health Simon Harris and FF leader Micheal Martin have refused to meet them and discuss their concerns over conscientious objection legislation.

The group today said that in three weeks almost 500 nurses and midwives on the NMBI register have signed a petition for Simon Harris calling on him to protect freedom of conscience and to support the amendments in relation to freedom of conscience.

"Nurses and midwives who do not want to participate in abortions are extremely concerned in relation to Section 24(3) of the bill which states *Section 24 (3) A person who has a conscientious objection referred to in subsection (1) shall, as soon as may be, make such arrangements for the transfer of care of the pregnant woman concerned as may be necessary to enable the woman to avail of the termination of pregnancy concerned.

"We are appalled that humane amendments in relation to pain relief for late abortions, resuscitation measures where a baby survives an abortion, the exclusion of disability, race or gender as grounds for abortion, parental notification and dignified disposal of remains have not been supported by any Fine Gael TDs.

In a statement today the group said they have repeatedly asked to meet with Minister Simon Harris and Deputy Michéal Martin to discuss their concerns but as yet have had no follow up in respect of our requests.

"There has been little or no consultation with staff as to what impact this legislation will have on clinical practice and the impact on health service delivery."

The group have also released the full text of a letter they have sent to the Minister for Health.

It reads:

***

Dear Mr. Harris,

We are dedicated, hardworking nurses and midwives who care for patients from conception to natural death. We have a conscientious commitment to life which accords with the values inherent in Our Code of Professional Conduct and Ethics. We respect and defend the dignity of every stage of human life and we have a responsibility to make every valid or reasonable effort to protect the life and health of pregnant women and their unborn babies.

We are extremely concerned that the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018, in particular, Part 3 Section 24 (3)*, will seriously impact on our ability to practise. In 2018 two Scottish midwives Mary Doogan and Connie Wood were forced to quit their jobs when they refused to oversee abortions. For the first time this legislation, which differs from the 2013 Act, will permit the intentional ending of the life of the unborn child up to birth. For us as nurses and midwives participation in termination of pregnancy defined in relation to a pregnant woman, as a medical procedure which is intended to end the life of a foetus, is morally objectionable and conflicts with our conscientious commitment to life.

Participation includes any supervision, delegation, planning or supporting of staff involved in termination of pregnancy. We do not want to be discriminated against by our employers or victimised as employees if we exercise our right to freedom of conscience.

We are in the midst of an unprecedented crisis in the Health Service and as yet there has been no effort made by you as Minister for Health to consult the nursing or midwifery professions on the clinical implications of this bill.

We are calling on you as Minister for Health:

(a) to consult our professions in relation to this legislation and

(b) to support the amendments that have been tabled to protect our right to freedom of conscience so we will not be forced out of our professions.

*Section 24 (3) A person who has a conscientious objection referred to in subsection (1) shall, as soon as may be, make such arrangements for the transfer of care of the pregnant woman concerned as may be necessary to enable the woman to avail of the termination of pregnancy concerned.

Yours sincerely,

Marie Donnelly RGN Chair, Margaret McGovern RGN Vice Chair, Catherina O'Sullivan RPN Secretary, Fiona McHugh Clinical Paediatric Nurse Specialist PRO and Nurses and Midwives for Life Ireland

Additional reporting - Digital Desk

National Women's Council of Ireland urges TDs to pass abortion laws by the weekend

Earlier: The National Women's Council of Ireland has urged TDs to pass new abortion laws through the Dáil by this weekend - despite fears the existing bill does not go far enough.

By Fiachra Ó Cionnaith

National Women's Council of Ireland director Orla O'Connor.
National Women's Council of Ireland director Orla O'Connor.

In a letter to all TDs, NWCI director Orla O'Connor said acknowledged there are legitimate fears the existing bill does not decriminalise abortion or introduce buffer zones to prevent protests at facilities where abortions will take place.

However, despite the concerns, Ms O'Connor said the onus is on politicians to temporarily put these issues to one side and push the bill through the Dáil this week to ensure the January 1 abortion services deadline can be met.

"The NWCI acknowledges the hard work that you are undertaking in passing legislation to give effect to the landslide Yes vote to repeal the eighth amendment last May," Ms O'Connor's letter, which has been seen by the Irish Examiner, read.

"As things stand, women and girls continue to travel to access healthcare or take abortion pills without medical supervision.

"While recognising this legislation does not do everything we have advocated for, such as decriminalise abortion and allow for safety zones to protect women from protestors, we urge you to ensure that women centred legislation is ready to progress to the Seanad this week.

"There is an enormous public mandate to ensure that abortion care services are available to all women and girls who need them from January 1, 2019," Ms O'Connor's letter read.

While a number of TDs have backed the NWCI call, it is understood some pro-choice TDs who want further amendments to the legislation have taken issue with any suggestion they should put changes to one side in order to ensure the bill passes this week.

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