Doctors have sharply criticised an Irish rights body which called for pro-life doctors to be put on “an official register of conscientious objectors”.
The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, which also called for a change to the law to ensure all preborn babies with severe disabilities could be aborted, said that medical practitioners also were obliged to refer women for abortion despite their ethical objections.
The national representative body, Doctors for Life, said that “to be put on a list for holding the belief of the right to life shows that the IHREC does not know the first thing about human rights or freedom of conscience.”
“To put people on a list for holding different views is a throw back to Stalinist Russia. Rather than promoting human rights it appears the IHREC wishes to take them away from people they disagree with,” the doctor’s group said.
“Freedom of Conscience goes to the very heart of every human being. The ability of one to adhere to his or her own conscience and in turn their judgement, goes to the heart of an individual; no less for a doctor, whilst in the course of their duty,” they said.
“To effectively ‘force’ doctors to participate in procedures that they find unethical, would be itself unethical.”
The pro-life organisation, Life Institute, also slammed the IHREC’s stance, and said the taxpayer-funded body was being both ‘hypocritical and wholly inconsistent”.
“This smacks of the excess of McCarthyism – a list drawn up which can be used to blacklist people or even to identify them in a way that might be used for hate purposes,” spokeswoman Megan Ní Scealláin said.
“That’s even before issues like data protection and employment rights are taken into account. The move would smack of a vindictiveness that is the very opposite of human rights protection,” she said.
“We have what is supposed to be a human rights body blatantly advocating for discrimination and for an abuse of privacy and conscience rights,” she said. “It’s almost laughable. The IHREC clearly only wants human rights for people who share their world view. They have lost their way and should stand down.”
“The right to life is the fist right, yet this supposed rights body offers no compassion, no respect to the unborn human person. Instead they want to target those doctors who in good conscience will not involve themselves in killing another human being,” the Life Institute spokeswoman said.
She also said that it was “fundamentally dishonest” of abortion campaigners and groups like the IHREC to claim that many women were still travelling to the UK in to abort babies who had a life-limiting condition – termed a ‘fatal abnormality’ by abortion supporters.
“In fact, the British abortion statistics show that the number of abortions carried out on women travelling from Ireland to England and Wales because the baby has a condition such as Edwards Syndrome or anencephaly has decreased almost to zero in many cases,” she said. “Those babies are now being aborted in Ireland.”
“Instead, what the official figures show is that there has been a shocking 3.7 fold jump in the number of women travelling to Britain to abort a baby with Down Syndrome between 2018 and 2021.”
“In 2018, there were 16 babies aborted because the child had Down Syndrome. That jumped to 27 babies in 2019, and 35 in 2020,” she said. “In 2021, a heart-breaking total of 59 abortions were carried out in Britain on Irish babies who had Down Syndrome.”
Ms Ní Scealláín said that evidence from parents of children with Down Syndrome, and the recent baby Christopher case in the National Maternity hospital hospital where a baby boy was aborted after a misdiagnosis, showed that parents felt pushed towards abortion after a diagnosis of a disability.
“These numbers suggested that parents are increasingly pushed towards abortion and this has enormous implications for people with Down Syndrome,” she said. “When are we going to wake up and take this form of deadly discrimination seriously, when we reach a situation such as they have in Denmark where 98% of babies with Down Syndrome are aborted.”
“Why is the IHREC not calling for a review of maternity care in Ireland and an investigation into why so many babies with disabilities are now aborted?” she said. “Do the human rights of people with disabilities not matter?”
The IHREC’s submission was made to the ongoing Abortion Review, a process widely held by pro-life groups and TDs to be a whitewash of the outcomes of the abortion legislation which has seen a huge rise in abortion rates and catastrophic errors such as the Baby Christopher case where an unborn child was mistakenly diagnosed with a severe disability and aborted in the National Maternity Hospital.