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Irish Health Minister demands that nuns allow abortion in hospital on their land

21 April 2017

The design for the new hospital on land owned by the Sisters of Charity. 

The Irish Health Minister has called on an order of nuns to agree contracts allowing abortion and contraception in the new National Maternity Hospital being built on their land.

Irish Health Minister Simon Harris has intervened in a row about ownership and control of the proposed new National Maternity Hospital in south Dublin where the new 300 million euro facility is planned next to St Vincent's Hospital.

The decision by the government to "hand over" control of the new hospital to a religious order has caused a furore in the Irish press, and thousands have signed a petition opposing it. The outrage is centred around historic allegations of child abuse by the order, as well as fears that the nuns would prevent abortion and other practices contrary to Catholic teaching taking place on the premises.

"Making valuable land no cost"

However, few of the articles mention that the Sisters own the land where the badly needed new hospital is being built and are not making any profit from the arrangement. As the Health Minister explained: "The St Vincent's Healthcare Group is making available very valuable land at no cost to the State, to facilitate the relocation of the National Maternity Hospital. In doing so, they have foregone the opportunity to put this land to alternative use. Let me very clear: there will be no financial gain to any religious order from the development of this hospital."

Abortion "care"

Four of the nine people on the board of the new hospital will be nominated by St Vincent's Hospital Group, which is owned by the Sisters of Charity. Dr Peter Boylan, a former Master at Holles Street Hospital, said that is is "inappropriate for a hospital to have a strong religious influence, particularly from the Catholic Church", questioning whether access to "care" such as IVF and terminations would be affected by the nuns religious beliefs.

Despite the fact that there was previous agreement on the issues following a mediation process Health Minister Harris has belatedly intervened and has announced that he is trying to establish three conditions, including that "The hospital must have clinical, operational and financial independence, with no question of religious interference. The Minister for Health will have the power to guarantee this to ensure all relevant and legal healthcare must be available."

Anti-life agendas

Pat Buckley, SPUC's UN and Ireland consultant, said: "Ireland has, without recourse to abortion, one of the lowest levels of maternal mortality in the world. Abortion and IVF are not healthcare, and it is with great sadness that I see anti-life agendas being pushed even to the extent of forcing nuns to permit them to take place on land they own, which they have freely made available to the state."

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