Now that abortion is legal in Ireland, all hospitals, including those with a Catholic ethos, will be required to carry out abortions once the country’s repeal of a constitutional abortion ban goes into effect.
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadka made the announcement while discussing surgical abortions during a speech to the Irish parliament, just a few weeks after Ireland voted by a large margin (63 percent) to repeal the amendment that had banned abortion in the country for the last 35 years. While many conservatives predicted Ireland’s abortion ban repeal would lead to the loss of other freedoms, it’s somewhat surprising how quickly this has proven to be the case.
Abortion In Ireland Post-Referendum
The Irish government has been drafting legislation to address how abortion law will work now that the ban is overturned. One proposed bill would allow women to get an abortion during the first trimester, and into the early weeks of the second trimester in extreme cases. Legislators are using Ireland’s Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act of 2013 as a guide. This piece of legislation allowed for abortions in extreme medical circumstances, and for individual medical personnel to opt out of giving those abortions.
Varadkar is Ireland’s first openly gay prime minister. President Trump has boasted about their “outstanding relationship” and Time magazine called him one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
He did offer a loophole for doctors, nurses, and midwives who want to opt out of performing abortion procedures on conscience grounds, but it’s unclear how that would play out in practice. Regardless, Varadkar was still clear all of Ireland’s medical institutions, no matter their origins or funding, would be required to participate in performing abortions now.
“It will not, however, be possible for publicly-funded hospitals, no matter who their patron or owner is, to opt out of providing these necessary services which will be legal in this state once this legislation is passed by the Dáil and Seanad (senate),” he said, according to the BBC.
Catholics In Ireland
While it seems like this announcement should create backlash with the Catholic Church in Ireland, the relative silence is evidence the church’s influence has waned over the years. The percentage of the Irish population who still refer to themselves as Catholic is at a record low.
Eamon Martin, the archbishop of Armagh and primate of all Ireland, said the repeal was proof Irish culture had changed and that people had drifted away from the church. The archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, said many would interpret the results of the vote as a sign of the marginal role of the church in today’s society. Pope Francis remained silent on Ireland’s repeal, to the chagrin of many Catholics.
That said, the Catholic Church is the largest non-government provider of health care services in the world; two orders of nuns own some of the biggest hospitals in Dublin. A Catholic ethos still permeates much of the country, particularly its healthcare. In an article last year in the Sunday Times, the bishop of Elphin, Kevin Doran, said regardless of who owns a Catholic hospital, or if it receives public funding, they must abide by the rules of the Catholic Church. He said that Catholic hospitals have “a special responsibility … to Catholic teachings about the value of human life and the dignity and the ultimate destiny of the human person.”
Revoking Freedoms Has A Trickle Down Effect
Many conservatives made sad predictions following the repeal of the ban. One of those was that when one people group is cheapened, others would be as well.
“The reality that so many of us do not wish to confront, and that the Irish referendum thrusts upon us, is that liberalism divorced from Christianity means nothing less than the reintroduction of the pagan brutality of Rome and Tenochtitlan, where life was cheap and the lives of the weakest were the cheapest,” John Daniel Davidson wrote in The Federalist.
Now, just three weeks after targeting the unborn, the Irish government is targeting religious freedoms. One of the direct effects of revoking one person’s freedoms is that more people also become less free. If abortion is the unfettered result of individualism without God, then coercing religious institutions to act against their conscience is a significant step toward tyranny.
In this case, not only are babies going to be aborted, and women suffer emotionally and mentally for that choice, but faith-based institutions will also have to perform abortions, against their own conscience. This too, like the newfound “freedom” granted by the abortion repeal, will have negative effects on the Catholic church and the Irish people.