February 1, 2023

Ireland Abortion Rights Activists Oppose Hospital Deal

5 min read


DUBLIN – The Irish government has postponed a decision on plans to hand over control of a 8 840 million state-funded maternity hospital to a charity set up by order of Catholic nuns. Abortion rights activists and opposition politicians are fighting the plan, saying they fear the charity could apply Catholic ideology to abortion and other issues in running the hospital.

The Irish cabinet was set to approve the plan on Tuesday, but postponed the decision for at least two weeks amid growing public controversy, partly due to a response to a leak in the United States. Happened A draft opinion Which suggested that the Supreme Court could reverse. Ro v. WadeHistoric decision on abortion rights.

Bernie Lennon, chairwoman of the Maternity Hospital activist group, said she believed the Supreme Court’s revelation would strengthen public protest against the plan in Ireland. His group wants the state to take full ownership of the new hospital to protect public investment and ensure it provides abortion, contraception and voluntary sterilization services.

“Reproductive rights and reproductive justice are threatened on both sides of the Atlantic,” she said. “Productive rights are a global movement, and we will support each other.”

More than 50 physicians working at the existing hospital, the National Maternity Hospital, signed an open letter in support of the government’s plan to transfer the hospital to a charity. Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said fears of religious interference were unfounded, noting that the new hospital’s constitution stated that it would provide “medically appropriate and legally permitted healthcare services”. Will offer a full range of

The controversy dates back to 2017, when the Irish government moved the National Maternity Hospital, a private non-profit organization primarily funded by the state, to a new building on the Dublin campus of St. Vincent’s University Hospital. Plans were revealed, which are also running mainly from state funds. But still, like many Irish hospitals and schools, through the Catholic order, in this case, the religious sisters of the charity. The two hospitals will work together under the name St. Vincent.

Ireland has dominated the Catholic Church for most of its history, and only legalized abortion in 2018, when two-thirds of voters in a growing secular society voted to repeal the constitutional ban. The Catholic ideology of prolonged restrictions on divorce and contraception was also lifted through a referendum, or a change in the law.

Initially, the government agreed that the amalgamated hospital would be owned by the nuns and managed by their representatives, in exchange for land for a new building at no cost. The sisters later said they would abandon the project when more than 100,000 people signed a protest petition, citing fears that Catholic ideology could limit the services of the new hospital and make it publicly owned. I’m asking to keep.

It was announced last week that the sisters, who have been reduced in number, have handed over ownership of St. Vincent’s Hospital and the site to St. Vincent Holdings, a new non-profit company, to allow the government to approve the deal. The road is clear. New hospital on St. Vincent’s campus. In exchange for agreeing to lease the site for free for 299 years, St. Vincent Holdings is willing to acquire control and administrative rights to the two merged hospitals as well as a private hospital on the same site.

After its independence from Britain a century ago, the modern Irish state initially devoted most of its education and health services to religious groups, especially the Catholic Church, to which a large majority of its citizens belonged. Although the state paid the highest tuition and medical salaries, and financed most of the treatment, equipment and care and construction work, Catholics owned property and controlled teaching and medical care.

In recent decades, as the more liberal and secular and religious professions have grown in Ireland, nuns and clergy have disappeared from schools and hospitals, and many orders have turned their property over to charities run by the public board. Have been transferred, who are chosen by religious orders.

Women’s rights activists are concerned that the religious sisters’ charity, or the Vatican, may have played a role in the selection of the new holding company’s directors. He also wants the government to disclose the legal protections it has put in place to prevent religious interference in the new hospital and to protect public investment in a private company. The health minister said this week that he would release the legal details of the agreement.

Religious sisters from the charity and St. Vincent’s University Hospital did not respond to requests for comment.

Opposition parties have stated they will not run in the by-elections, but will use force to force St. Vincent Holdings to sell the site for a new hospital. Social Democrat leader and member of the parliamentary health committee, Rosen Shortel, said no decision should be made before parliament has a chance to examine the agreement.

Ms. Shortell said in a statement, “We have seen that, with reports of a reversal near Roe v. Wade in the United States, these rights, once secured, continue to be fought for and advocated for.” Should keep “We do not want to see a similar decline in the reproductive rights of Irish women who have been abducted as a result of this government decision.”

Dr Peter Boylen, a former master or senior doctor at the National Maternity Hospital, said it was unclear who had appointed the board and shareholders of the new holding company, which has no representation from the Irish state. It noted a clause in the financial documents of St. Vincent Holdings stating that its directors would be “committed to upholding the vision and values ​​of Marie Eikenhead,” who founded the Religious Sisters Charity in 1815. Kept

Dr Boylen said he believed the break in the decision was a “golden opportunity” for the Irish government to take full ownership of the proposed site and maintain the independence of the existing maternity hospital. What good is a web site if it simply “blends in” with everything else out there?

Dr. Shane Higgins, senior doctor at the National Maternity Hospital, said in an interview that the corporate structure of the newly merged hospital would protect the medical independence of the maternity hospital. He said there was an urgent need to relocate it from its current location in the city center, which is now more than a century old and too small for its purpose.

“I think there are people, observers, who do not fully understand the significance of this agreement for future generations,” said Dr. Higgins. “If this plan is not completed, it will take another 20 years to build a new national maternity hospital, and the state is calling for it. I think it is time to go ahead and build this hospital.”



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