I have always felt a calling to nursing. In recent years this has further revealed itself as a passion for midwifery. At four years of age, I would dress up in my nurse’s outfit to visit sick relatives in hospital. I would study every poster and encyclopedia of the human body I could get my hands on as a young child. These days, I watch videos on suturing techniques in my spare time. While my friends flick through Snapchat filters, I quiz myself using anatomy apps. I sit for hours reading the Oxford Handbook of Obstetrics and Gynaecology because it fascinates me and because I want to be as prepared as possible to help women and children to the best of my ability. I read about the devastating statistics on maternal and infant mortality, pregnancy loss and abortion rates among disadvantaged communities. My heart bleeds and I dream of the day where I have the opportunity to serve these women and children.
I want to be a midwife because I want to protect, empower and support the vulnerable.Helping women of all backgrounds through one of the most challenging and life-changing experiences one can go through while simultaneously protecting the weakest, smallest and most innocent among us, our future, our children. Because hear this, Minister: it is never one or the other. As a pro-life feminist and aspiring healthcare professional, I believe in the non-negotiable, intrinsic value of every human life from its beginning at conception to its natural end.
Since an early age I have been committed to this field of work, this vocation.The legislation that you are railroading through the Dáil though, Minister, threatens my freedom of conscience and thus my ability to fulfil this dream and live out my vocation.
Minister, your abortion bill asks people like me who pursue a life-long dream of serving and protecting people at their most vulnerable moments to prey on the disadvantaged, to turn a blind eye to the circumstances perpetuating suffering in our patients’ lives and, instead of advocating for justice for these mothers and babies, to reject our duty of care as professionals and as human beings. You ask us to dehumanise our most defenceless patients, who we enter this sector to care for, and to inflict lethal violence upon them. In fact you do not ask – you demand. You say conscientious objection is provided for in the bill. Section 24.1 begins with exceptions to the freedom of conscience clause. Even without those exceptions, your bill fails to protect our right to freedom of conscience. What many might have missed, and what I missed until it was pointed out to me the other day, is that your bill does not recognise the right to freedom of conscience under any circumstances. Section 24.1 states that “nothing in this Act shall be construed as obliging any medical practitioner, nurse or midwife to carry out, or to participate in carrying out, a termination of pregnancy…to which he or she has a conscientious objection.” Nothing in this Act. That’s different to nothing. If the Medical Council or NMBI guidelines obligate a doctor, nurse or midwife to participate in an abortion under any circumstances, the conscientious objector cannot turn to the law to defend this human right.
As when you were campaigning to repeal the 8th, you continue to mislead the public in the most sly manner. And as with the repeal lies, the bitter fruits of this bill will come too late to the majority who trusted you.
As the Select Committee on Health shot down reasonable amendments to your horrific bill, it was identified that there is no clarity as to what constitutes the “transfer of care” your bill forces us to carry out.
You may have heard that the term midwife means “with woman”. How, may I ask you, is failure to notify parents of an underage girl seeking an abortion (serious indication of potential sexual abuse) being “with woman”? How is facilitating and participating in ending the lives of unborn little girls simply because they are girls being “with woman”? How is offering a woman crippled with anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bulimia, or bipolar disorder an abortion instead of the evidence-based treatment she needs and the hospital bed she deserves being “with woman”? How is sending a woman off home or to her college dorm with one pill to starve her baby and another to induce a traumatic miscarriage and heavy bleeding, leaving her alone and in agony being “with woman”?
It’s not, Minister. And many of us know this. We, the 1/3 of the population who voted No, along with the 72% of Yes voters* who are in favour of conscientious objection for healthcare professionals demand that our voices be heard and our civil rights upheld in the legislation.