The Corner

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Pro-Choice Authoritarianism Is Coming to Ireland

A pro-life campaigner carries a sign ahead of a referendum on abortion law in Wicklow, Ireland, May 8, 2018. (Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters)

Irish voters have instructed their government to legalize abortion.

That will undoubtedly happen. So will religious oppression.

Leo Varadkar, the taoiseach (prime minister), has announced that Catholic medical institutions will be forced by the government to perform abortions, assuming any public funding. From the BBC story (my emphasis):

“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) . . .”

Mr Varadkar 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.”

Time will tell whether religiously dissenting medical professionals will be forced to refer — meaning procure — a colleague to do the deed. Many will refuse believing it constitutes complicity in what they consider to be a grievous sin.

A constitutional legal fight over that very question is currently ongoing in Canada around euthanasia.

Forcing every institution that receives public funds to perform any legal medical service means that if Ireland legalizes euthanasia — under discussion post referendum — Catholic hospitals will be required to allow sick patients to be killed in their wards.

Sex-change surgeries will also have to be provided. Ditto sterilization, not to mention abortion.

Medical conscience” looks to become one of the most contentious civil-rights issues of the current era as secularists impose their values on the entire health-care system by transforming “mere legality” (my term) of controversial procedures into a positive right to receive them. Once “equitable and equal access” becomes legally guaranteed, the government must ensure accessibility to everyone.

That means coercing heterodox religiously oriented institutions and individual practitioners to violate their own consciences as the oppressive price of medical licensing.

This is not only authoritarian — shattering the guarantees of religious liberty in virtually all existing human-rights accords — but could cause a significant brain drain if dissenting doctors, nurses, and others decide to retire, find other areas of endeavor, or if brilliant young would-be doctors and nurses decide to pursue non-medical careers rather than be compelled to violate their religious beliefs.

I hope civil libertarians, world faith leaders, and religious institutions fight back with all their might. Liberty is at stake. So is excellence in health care.

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