Ireland’s Taoiseach has said that hospitals with a Catholic ethos will be required to perform abortions after new legislation comes into effect.
Leo Varadkar told the Dáil that individual medics and healthcare workers will be able to opt out but that this opt-out will not extend to publicly funded hospitals.
Two of Dublin’s biggest hospitals are owned by religious orders. The St Vincent’s Healthcare Group, which includes St Vincent’s University Hospital, is owned by the Sisters of Charity, while the Sisters of Mary own the Mater Hospital.
The government is drafting legislation that will allow abortion on demand for up to 12 weeks of pregnancy and in certain cases up to 24 weeks.
Varadkar was responding to a question from the socialist Solidarity politician Mick Barry, who lamented that Ireland had “church-controlled schools, church-controlled hospitals … Ireland lags behind and the Government lags behind.”
Varadkar said: “It will not … 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].
“I’m happy to give you that assurance.”
He added: “That legislation will allow individuals to opt out based on their consciences or their religious convictions but will not allow institutions to do so.
“So, just as is the case now in the legislation for the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013, hospitals like for example Holles Street, which is a Catholic voluntary ethos hospital, the Mater, St Vincent’s and others will be required, and will be expected to, carry out any procedure that is legal in this state and that is the model we will follow.”