Freedom of Conscience

Health Ministers Simon Harris : “Doctors have a right to conscientious objection but women also have a right to healthcare. The law on abortion is changing; the law on conscientious objection is not changing.”

But what does Freedom of Conscience mean, and what does it protect?

Freedom of Conscience is stated as a human right in article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The following section is quoted:

Article 9

Freedom of thought, conscience and religion

  1. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.
  2. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

It is also upheld in our own Constitution of Ireland in sections 44.2.1° and 44.3°.

— for more statistics/information check out our website on Freedom of Conscience.

Following the repeal of the 8th Amendment in Ireland, Freedom of Conscience is upheld as is stated in section 22 of the new abortion law.

However, though the doctor would not need to perform the abortion him/herself, he/she would need to give a referral to where one might be performed. This, doctors claim, should still be contained under conscientious objection.

There are three points which are concerning in this debate:

  1. Doctors, those who have a conscientious objection to abortion or not, must perform an abortion in an emergency situation. This “emergency situation” not being properly defined leaves room for the abuse of such a position.
  2. Medical students are not protected by this Freedom of Conscience, when, as stated above, it is declared a human right.
  3. Doctors must refer a woman when they refuse to proceed with an abortion.

Senator David Norris, “I do respect people’s conscience and I think it’s very important we do so. If you have a deep aversion and objection to abortion, I think it’s also a violation to require people to refer.”

Lecturer in Medical Ethics, Noreen O’CarrollI am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of a pro-life group; although as an ordinary citizen, I have consistently advocated for the life of the developing baby to be legally protected and have voted accordingly.

Dr. Kirsten Fuller, a GP in Co Tipperary has said, “‘GPs must be allowed to use their conscience on abortion” to Independent News. In the same article is the following: “The minister’s new law defines abortion as ‘a procedure intended to end the life’ of an unborn child. Doctors who hold that this is not genuine healthcare are not prepared to surrender their conscience or their clinical judgment, or both, no matter what the law says.”

Dr.Brendan Crowley, ““The proposed freedom of conscience is just pretend and will lead to GPs who do not want to be involved in organising abortion services feeling forced to do so.”