The Irish Government in passing legislation to introduce abortion in Ireland have not only trampled on the conscientious objection of the members of both coalition partners but have also placed medical personnel in Ireland’s hospitals in an impossible situation. The Government action in passing this legislation poses a fundamental question about how civil society can respond to the imposition of an unjust law. Central to this question is the very nature of conscientious objection itself and whether it is simply a right or does it also imply a duty to oppose the injustice.
The philosopher Henry David Thoreau wrote:
Unjust laws exist; shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once? Men generally, under such a government as this, think that they ought to wait until they have persuaded the majority to alter them. They think that, if they should resist, the remedy would be worse than the evil. But it is the fault of the government itself that the remedy is worse than the evil.
Clearly there is potential conflict between freedom of conscience and the duty to obey unjust national laws. On the one hand it is not possible or desirable for citizens to exercise complete freedom over which laws they chose to obey, for obvious reasons, but on the other hand, just laws, rooted in natural law should never place a citizen in a situation where his/her own conscience is in conflict with the law.
This legislation is about terminating the lives of unborn babies and it prioritises the so called 'right' to an abortion above the right of doctors and nurses to act in accordance with their consciences, but in the end the fundamental point regarding abortion and human rights is that an action that deliberately ends the life of an innocent human being cannot be anyone's right since it constitutes the most serious breach of human rights possible.
Pope John Paul II warned against a ‘new ideology of evil, perhaps more insidious and hidden than its predecessors, which attempts to pit even human rights against the family and against man’.
Bear in mind that Pope John Paul II had personal experience of the evils of Nazism and Communism, and he was speaking at the dawn of the new millennium, yet he saw what he termed, this new ideology, as being more treacherous and underhand than either of those regimes. The onward march of this ideology is directed at National Governments through international institutions like the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU) and the Council of Europe.
Opposition is stifled by, anti democratic decision-making and by subtle attempts to control freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and conscientious objection. It is partly achieved by designation of certain groups as victim classes and prioritizing their rights above the rights of the rest. It is also achieved by gaining control of the language and presenting issues that most people reject, by sanitizing that language used to describe it. This agenda masquerades as the right to health, women’s rights, children’s rights and other rights. Some groups really do need safeguards but their special status is being usurped by Governments and powerful NGO's in order to further radical agendas. Traditionally accepted natural law Human Rights are being replaced by bogus rights, which are being placed in a position of supremacy over real human rights.
Now that this legislation has been signed by President Higgins all that remains for the Bill to be implemented is the finalisation of the regulations and the signature of the Health Minister James Reilly. This has the effect of placing medical personnel in a similar situation to that experienced by the Glasgow midwives who refused to oversee abortion procedures when the hospital reorganised abortion services, transferring late abortion patients to the labour ward rather than the gynaecology ward and whose case, which they won on appeal, has now been referred to a higher court.