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Nurses who object to abortion 'face dilemma over new duties'

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From left, nurse Margaret McGovern, clinical paediatric nurse specialist Fiona McHugh and nursing lecturer Mary Fitzgibbon at a press conference at the Merrion Hotel in Dublin

From left, nurse Margaret McGovern, clinical paediatric nurse specialist Fiona McHugh and nursing lecturer Mary Fitzgibbon at a press conference at the Merrion Hotel in Dublin

From left, nurse Margaret McGovern, clinical paediatric nurse specialist Fiona McHugh and nursing lecturer Mary Fitzgibbon at a press conference at the Merrion Hotel in Dublin

Nurses and midwives who have a conscientious objection to pregnancies being terminated are still in the dark about how their jobs will change, it has been claimed.

The new law, which is due to be rolled out within weeks, will allow health staff the option of not participating in abortion if it conflicts with their beliefs.

However, there is concern about nurses and midwives who not only want to opt out owing to freedom of conscience, but also object to directing a woman to an abortion provider.

The issues were raised yesterday by the Nurses4Life group, which produced a petition signed by some 350 registered nurses for Health Minister Simon Harris, asking to protect their freedom of conscience.

Margaret Fitzgibbon, a lecturer in nursing, said staff shortages meant that all the nursing staff rostered on a maternity unit may hold the same pro-life view when an abortion is scheduled, plunging them into an uncomfortable dilemma.

She warned that duties placed on nurses under the new law could "involve supervision, delegation, planning or supporting of staff involved in termination of pregnancy".

"We do not want to be discriminated against by our employers or victimised as employees if we exercise our freedom of conscience," she said.

Two other members, Fiona McHugh, a clinical paediatric nurse specialist, and Margaret McGovern, a general nurse, also highlighted how the issue had not been raised at hospital level by senior nursing managers.

Debated

A spokeswoman for Mr Harris said last night: "Regarding conscientious objection, it is important to state this legislation does not require medical practitioners, nurses or midwives to do anything new, or indeed anything more than they are already ethically required to do under their own professional guidance."

The legislation is to be debated in the Dail this evening.


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