Nearly 1,000 medics registered in Northern Ireland are refusing to be involved in providing abortions to patients. The defiant action comes after abortion was legalized in the country in early October, plunging many physicians into a moral dilemma.
Northern Irish doctor Andrew Cupples, who is vehemently opposed to the liberalization of the abortion laws, warned a number of his colleagues have vowed to leave the profession if they’re forced to carry out terminations.
“Hundreds of healthcare professionals in Northern Ireland will refuse to be involved in abortion services,” Cupples told the Independent. “There are even people who are planning to walk away from the healthcare service if they are forced to participate in abortion services.”
Cupples has written a letter to the Northern Ireland Secretary, Julian Smith, outlining his concerns. The letter has been signed by 911 of the country’s medical professionals.
Indeed, it is not just doctors concerned about the sudden law change and its implications.
“There are also people in obstetrics and gynecology and midwives who are worried if they do not agree to be trained in abortion they could be forced to do so or reprimanded by their employers or a professional body,” Cupples explained, noting midwives and other maternity staff have “no protection” under the new guidelines to object to being involved in abortion services.
According to the protocols issued by the British Parliament, medical professionals who conscientiously objects to being involved in abortions “must raise this with their employer” in the interim period, prior to a public consultation being carried out within the Northern Ireland government. The consultation is due to address key issues such as how far along a woman can obtain an abortion and what procedures will be permitted, along with clearer guidelines concerning conscientious objection.
On the eve of the new laws coming into effect, unionist lawmakers in Northern Ireland launched a last-ditch effort to block the action from Westminster. However, in the absence of cross-party support, there was little to be achieved. Regrettably, the recalled sitting lasted less than an hour and achieved nothing.
One local politician, Michael Savage, has urged the Northern Irish Assembly to create its own laws in order to protect the unborn. Despite being a member of the Social Democratic Labour Party (SDLP), the leader of which is pro-abortion, Savage says his pro-life persuasion is informed by his personal experience (his son was born at just 25 weeks and survived). Now, he wants to ensure other babies are given a shot at life, too.
“I believe that my experience is testimony that even with a 20 percent chance of survival, my son was given the opportunity to fulfil his life and has taken it with both hands,” he told the Belfast Telegraph.
“We would just consider ourselves to be exceptionally lucky and couldn’t think of life without him,” the lawmaker continued. “It puts you very close to understanding the whole concept of the miracle of life. What it really does is to reinforce to you the things that matter in life — family and your children are probably the most important things to most people out there.”
Savage said he wanted “to speak up for those parents who are struggling at the moment with a young premature baby.”
“I want to tell them that there can be a happy ending here,” he added.
Last year, a referendum held in the Republic of Ireland repealed the 8th amendment of the Irish Constitution, which established protections for mothers and unborn babies. Since abortion was legalized, over 600 general practitioners have refused to participate in the procedures. As a result, abortion is only available at 19 hospital facilities across the country.