“The Minister for Health needs to scotch any suggestions that patients will be denied vital services that they are legally entitled to under future laws that are based on the recommendations of the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment which are based on international best practice.”.”

Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall TD has said the Minister for Health must provide clear assures that all publicly funded hospitals – including those connected to religious orders – will provide all legal healthcare services, including abortion services.

Deputy Shortall was commenting following reports today that Catholic hospitals could break the law and refuse to offer abortions in all circumstances under a code of ethics drafted by the Irish Catholic Bishops.

Deputy Shortall said:

“The Minister for Health Simon Harris needs to make it fully clear to the public that all healthcare procedures, including abortion services, provided for in law will be offered in all publicly funded hospitals with no exceptions for hospitals that are connected with religious orders.

“The Taoiseach has stated that provision will be made for individual doctors to opt out of offering abortion services on conscientious grounds – and to refer patients to another clinician. However, there can be no ambiguity about the fact that such conscience clauses cannot apply to entire hospitals.

“The Minister needs to scotch any suggestions that patients will be denied vital services that they are legally entitled to under future laws that are based on the recommendations of the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment which are based on international best practice.”

Deputy Shortall also called on the Minister to explain why there has been such a lengthy delay in delivering on the commitment to ensure that the new National Maternity Hospital remains in full public ownership.

“It is now more than a year since the Religious Sisters of Charity announced that they were withdrawing from any involvement in the St Vincent’s campus where the new hospital is to be based.

“There was an understandable public outcry when it emerged last year that the new hospital building would be in effect be gifted to a private interest. The Minister’s commitment last August to State ownership went some way to alleviating public concerns about how issues of Catholic ethos could impact on services.

“It is about time we saw the detail the new legal arrangement to copper fasten this commitment to clinical and operational, as well as financial and budgetary independence in the provision of maternity, gynaecology and neonatal services. The public need reassurances that this new facility will provide the full range of legally available services to Irish women.”

ENDS

25th July 2018