Catholic hospitals will not be allowed to refuse to perform an abortion on conscientious grounds, Health Minister Dr James Reilly has said.
“All institutions mentioned (in the Bill) are funded by the taxpayer. We could not have a situation where a service funded by the taxpayer could deprive a citizen of their rights,” he said.
“In those circumstances we see absolutely no indication or room for an institution to have a conscientious objection.”
Under the legislation, published this morning in full, at least two Catholic hospitals, the Mater Hospital and St Vincent's Hospital, could be forced to carry out abortions.
Meanwhile, an Independent TD has said that the Catholic Church has no right to take a stand on the abortion issue.
John Halligan, a TD from Waterford, called on Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore to condemn the Catholic Church over its response to the legislation dealing with abortion.
Speaking in the Dáil yesterday, Mr Halligan called on the Tánaiste “to condemn the Catholic Church for attempting to intervene in the running of this State and I call on the Church to desist from harassing TDs faced with an already difficult time in making a decision on this legislation”.
In trenchant comments , Mr Halligan said the church “ has no right to be the State’s moral compass and is in no position to lecture anyone on human rights with the Catholic Church’s blood-stained history”.
He described it as an “organisation that is non-democratic, anti-democratic, that is historically anti-woman, has the most dreadful record of child protection”.
He referred to the “level of abuse and intimidation” that TDs are receiving from pro-life activists and the Catholic Church over the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill.
The Waterford TD said he had personally been subjected to such abuse. “I’ve even had people come to my house after 12 o’clock at night. There’ve been several serious incidents of verbal abuse of TDs.
“Some have been ambushed outside their house. They’ve been spat at. They’ve been threatened with having their home burnt down and one has been threatened with having her throat cut,” he said.
“Last week, we had Archbishop Diarmuid Martin calling on the Government to do away with the party whip and no doubt you are aware of the attempts by the church to compare your Government to a totalitarian regime.
“On Tuesday the Catholic Bishops issued a statement claiming that people will be misled on the debate and that the Government is not obliged to legislate on the X-case.
“We now have senior Vatican officials calling on TDs who might be Catholic to resign if they support your Bill.”
But Mr Gilmore said Ireland was a democratic country. “People have the right to state their views to legislators, whether they are representatives of churches, ...or the pro-life movement... or of just their own private opinion.”