The Times has reported that hospitals run and funded by the Catholic church could break the law and refuse to offer abortions in all circumstances as detailed in a “code of ethics” that has been published by Irish Catholic Bishops.
The guidelines would apply to approximately 20 main hospitals, including St Vincent’s and the Mater hospitals in Dublin, and includes a ban on most assisted reproduction procedures.
The Code of Ethical Standards for Healthcare, which sets out what can be expected from Catholic healthcare services, bans contraception; gender reassignment surgery for transgender people, crisis pregnancy counselling with information on abortion and counselling for families going through a fatal foetal abnormality diagnosis that lists termination as an option.
The document questions the ethics of tests during pregnancy that might identify a fatal foetal abnormality and lead to the “immoral act” of abortion.
The Irish Catholic Bishops suggest that describing a pregnancy as having a fatal foetal abnormality is similar to describing the foetus as a “useless life”.
Within the code of conduct, offering or referring a woman for an abortion is banned. This directly contradicts the governments plan to legalise abortion and for any medical professional who conscientiously objects to refer a patient to another doctor.
The code states that if there is a clash between the law and the guidelines, the law should be obeyed, except when it conflicts with the “fundamental and inalienable” rights of the human person. It claims that such laws are in conflict with the “common good” and do not “command obedience”.
The Catholic bishops claim that abortion is morally wrong because it is the “direct and deliberate killing of, or direct lethal assault on, an innocent human life in the earliest stages of development”.
A lay organisation will run the new National Maternity Hospital at St Vincent’s after concerns about religious ownership, however, it has also committed to work in line with the values of Mary Aikenhead, the founder of the Sisters of Charity.
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