A member of the board of the Mater Hospital in Dublin says it will not comply with the new law the Irish Parliament approved allowing abortions in rare cases.
Fr Kevin Doran told The Irish Times performing abortions would violate the “ethos” of the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, which the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act called one of the 25 “appropriate institutions” where abortions could be performed.
The Sisters of Mercy founded the hospital in 1861 and it continues to be run by the Catholic order.
Fr Doran, who sits on the board of governors and the board of directors of the Mater, told the Irish Times it was “incumbent on the hospital to consider its position on the Act . . . The Mater can’t carry out abortions because it goes against its ethos. I would be very concerned that the Minister [for Health, James Reilly] sees fit to make it impossible for hospitals to have their own ethos.
He said that the Minister was “saying hospitals are not entitled to have an ethos.”
Sr Eugene Nolan, nurse tutor and member of the board of directors, described the situation facing the hospital as “very, very grave”, adding the legislation “is being imposed on us.
Clare Molloy of Youth Defence welcomed Fr Doran’s comments and said that abortion was not medically necessary and should contravene the ethos of any modern hospital.
“We applaud Fr Doran and the other members of the board who have pointed out that this legislation is being imposed by the government; a government who have ignored all the medical evidence showing that the direct killing of unborn babies cannot be medically justified,” she said.
“As Fr Doran has said, the legislation seeks to impose an ethos on Irish hospitals: an ethos which top doctors have told us is not backed by any evidence or best practice in psychiatry or obstetrics,” she said.
Niamh Uí Bhriain of the Life Institute said that one legal challenge possible against the abortion legislation was in the area of conscientious objection or in the case where a Catholic hospital was being forced to set aside their ethos of protecting human life.
“The ethos of the Mater does not include the deliberate taking of human life, and this legislation allows abortion until birth, so clearly the Mater, and other Catholic hospitals will need to now stand up for their ethos,” she said.
The Life Institute spokeswoman said that it should be the ethos of every hospital to protect human life, and noted that this was not simply a Catholic issue. One of the most vocal opponents of the legislation, Dr Sam Coulter Smith of the Rotunda Hospital, belonged to the Church of Ireland, but reflected the views of the majority of Irish doctors who were opposed to the deliberate killing of unborn children.
Ms Uí Bhriain slammed the Irish Times reporting of Fr Doran’s comments, noting that journalist Kitty Holland stated that the Mater was a hospital designated where “abortions may be carried out to save the life of a pregnant woman”.
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“In fact, as Ms Holland well knows, and as the Dublin Declaration – now signed by 600 medical professionals – confirms, abortion is not needed to save a mother’s life,” she pointed out.
Meanwhile, Galway Pro-Choice announced this week that it is mounting a bid to change the Ireland Constitution to allow abortion. It currently calls for protecting the right to life of unborn children.
“The legislation is extremely restrictive,” Ciara Dalstra, a member of the group, told the Galway Advertiser. “It does not cover cases of fatal fetal abnormalities, rape or incest. These women have been left out and abandoned. Also, as a mother, I look at the case of Savita Halappanavar, and it terrifies me. If I was in the same situation, the legislation may not protect my health or may only allow intervention too late, and my little boy would be left without his mother.”