Ireland’s Prime Minister Says Catholic Hospitals Must Perform Abortions

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar casts his vote at the polling station in Dublin, as the country goes to the polls to vote in the referendum on the 8th Amendment of the Irish Constitution. (Press Association via AP Images)

Just three weeks after Ireland voted to repeal its abortion ban, the prime minister of Ireland announced that all hospitals, even those with a Catholic ethos, will be forced to carry out abortions as soon as Ireland’s abortion repeal goes into effect. In a speech in the  Dáil (Irish parliament), Prime Minister Leo Varadkar was addressing concerns about surgical abortions when he made the comments about faith-based institutions. This aggressive animus demonstrates how taking away one subset of freedoms almost always leads to taking away others.

Currently the Irish government is working on legislation detailing how the recent repeal of its abortion ban, which passed by an overwhelming majority on May 25, will go into effect. The proposed legislation will allow for any woman to request an abortion up to 12 weeks and will allow abortion in extreme cases between 12 and 24 weeks. This would closely follow Ireland’s Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013, which allowed for abortions in extreme medical circumstances and for individual medical personnel to opt out.

Similarly, Varadkar did offer a caveat for doctors, nurses, or midwives to opt out of performing abortion procedures on conscience grounds, but it’s unclear how that would play out or, frankly, given how aggressively Irish officials are implementing this law, how long that allowance for religious liberty will last.

Varadkar was clear he wanted all of Ireland’s medical institutions, no matter their origins or funding, to participate in Ireland’s ban. “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.

Conservatives opposed to the repeal, both in Ireland and abroad, argued that it was not only morally wrong and would hurt Irish women and babies, but would also lead to other problems. Coercing faith-based institutions to violate their conscience to adhere to a new law is one of those many concerns. Given how eager Ireland was to repeal its abortion ban, and the wide margin by which it passed, it’s not surprising that Ireland’s political officials would go to such lengths to ensure abortion is indeed available to all. Abortion is by nature a life-taking procedure. In taking away one life, it strips another of conscience, health, and sanity. Now, Ireland’s prime minister is ensuring that this pattern will continue. Forcing entire institutions to engage in procedures that violate their collective conscience will only add to the devastating effects Ireland’s abortion repeal has had on the country.