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Medics must speak with one voice on upholding freedom of conscience, conference hears


Medics must speak with one voice on the need to uphold and strengthen freedom of conscience, and to ensure that no-one is compelled to perform an abortion, a conference organised by Doctors For Life has heard.

Chair of the group, Dr. Ronan Cleary, said that the conference was a reminder of why doctors entered medicine – “to save lives rather than to end them.”

Doctors for Life, an association of pro-life health professionals, hosted their annual conference at the Carlton Hotel, Dublin Airport.

The conference titled ‘The Future of Medicine is Pro-Life’ was addressed by cardiologist Dr Dermot Kearney, Peadar Tóibín TD, Ethicist and medical doctor Dr. Calum Miller, and lawyer Lois McLatchie.

Dr Ronan Cleary said: “We were delighted to welcome doctors from across the country to our conference today. The event touched on several key points, perhaps most pressingly the issue of freedom of conscience.”

“Recent reports have highlighted a focus of the Irish abortion review on the topic of freedom of conscience. It is important that we as doctors speak with one voice on the need to uphold and strengthen freedom of conscience, to ensure it applies across the board to all healthcare professionals and that nobody is compelled against their principles to perform an abortion,” he said.

Recently, abortion supporters have spoken about “careful monitoring of conscience-based refusal of abortion”, while some politicians have tried to brand conscientious objectors as “obstructers”.

The conference also heard from Dr. Dermot Kearney, who practices in England, spoke about the ‘noble and time-honoured role of the physician in upholding the value of all human life from conception to natural death’.

He outlined his recent experience in assisting mothers who changed their minds about going through with abortion by administering abortion reversal treatment after the first abortion pill and in the process saving the lives of over 30 babies.

As a result of a complaint filed by abortion providers Marie Stopes, Dr. Kearney had been prevented by the General Medical Council (GMC) in Britain for a number of months from carrying out this treatment. The complaint was dropped by the GMC and Dr. Kearney said that it has had the opposite effect to what the complainants intended, as the resulting publicity had made members of the public aware of abortion pill reversal, who otherwise never would have known.

Dr. Kearney said providing this assistance to women who changed their minds about going through an abortion is ‘a small illustration of one way in which doctors can support the value of life.’ He said ‘all doctors and the general public need to be aware that abortion pill reversal treatment is a service that is needed. It is safe for both mother and child and it is often effective in saving lives’.

Peadar Tóibín TD, leader of Aontú told attendees: “In the last 3 years 25,000 children north and south have been aborted. That’s the equivalent of 62 primary schools of children whose lives have been ended by the abortion law. It’s the equivalent to the total populations of Carlow, Ennis or Tralee having their lives wiped out in a three year period. 98% of children aborted were healthy babies with healthy mothers.

“This is not health care. It’s the opposite. Now the Minister for Health is awaiting the three year review report which is actively reviewing the right of conscientious objection by doctors and health care staff. People who spent all their lives working and studying to save lives are in real danger of being pushed into situations where they will have to end lives.”

Lois McLatchie, Communications office for ADF International spoke about recent encouraging updates, including breakthroughs on the issue of freedom of conscience and less-noticed victories in the public arena. She outlined the challenges and opportunities facing doctors and others internationally on the issue of fundamental freedoms and reminded attendees on the need to continue to robustly defend freedom of thought, conscience and belief – in particular for doctors and healthcare workers.”

Dr. Calum Miller, Research associate with Oxford University and regular contributor to the media on medical ethics issues including abortion gave a presentation to attendees about effective communication on right to life issues and an update on some of the research which supports the pro-life position.

He reminded attendees that the research is clear about the beginning of life, the incredible development of the unborn child in the womb and the negative impact of abortion on women. Dr. Miller said:

“‘Abortion is clearly not healthcare. It is the deliberate ending of a human life, a life that scientists agree begins at the moment of fertilisation. Nothing could be clearer and as medical practitioners who believe in evidence based medical practice, we should never shy away from that fundamental truth.”

Chairperson of Doctors For Life, Dr. Ronan Cleary concluded: “We leave our conference filled with energy and inspiration. The event gave doctors from around the country an opportunity to confer with each other and remind us why we entered medicine – to save lives rather than to end them.

“The vast majority of GPs in Ireland are not performing abortions. Even for those who do not describe themselves as ‘pro-life’, in their heart of hearts they know abortion is not healthcare. Any attempt to erode freedom of conscience and bludgeon doctors into violating their principles by providing abortions against their will would rightly prompt a massive reaction from doctors.

“Prior to abortion legislation, doctors in Ireland always considered two patients when treating a pregnant woman and made every effort to save an unborn baby while giving necessary treatment to mothers.

“We look forward to a day when the law again reflects the true role of a doctor – that of protecting the lives of women and their unborn babies,” he said.

This piece was first published on Gript

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