Northern Ireland news

Bill to protect conscience rights of medical professionals introduced by Nuala O'Loan

Baroness Nuala O'Loan has introduced the Parliamentary Bill. Picture by Hugh Russell

A PARLIAMENTARY Bill which would allow medics to refuse to carry out abortions has been introduced by Baroness Nuala O'Loan.

The change of law, if passed, would give medical professionals the right not to treat a patient if they have a conscientious objection to the treatment, including abortion services.

The Conscientious Objection (Medical Activities) Act 2017 has passed its second reading in the House of Lords and will now proceed to the committee stage.

Under the existing law, some medical professionals are not protected from unjust discrimination

But the Bill would clarify the law to ensure conscience protections are in place for all medical professionals to protect them from discrimination.

The Bill also refers specifically to participation in abortion, withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment and any activity under the provisions of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act.

The Bill states that employers "must not discriminate against or victimise" an employee who conscientiously objects.

Baroness O'Loan, a devout Catholic, said: "I believe this is a timely and important Bill that should attract support across both Houses.

"Reasonable accommodation of conscientious objection is a matter both of liberty and equality: of individual freedom and social inclusion.

"No-one should be coerced by the risk to their careers into violating their conscience and it is plainly inconsistent with the principles of equality legislation to exclude whole sections of society from areas of medical employment simply because of their moral beliefs.

"I hope this excites support from across the country that allows us to fix this deficit of legal rights and protections."

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