Support the campaign for the State to own and manage the new National Maternity Hospital

Atheist Ireland joined a meeting this week of women’s rights groups and secular groups that want the State to own and manage the new National Maternity Hospital. The meeting was convened by Jo Tully, chairperson of the Campaign Against Church Ownership of Women’s Healthcare.

This growing campaign has two demands:

  • That the site of our new National Maternity Hospital (NMH) be publicly owned
  • That the hospital be owned and managed on a secular basis by the State

You can get ongoing news about the campaign on Twitter and Facebook or by following the Twitter hashtag #MakeNMHOurs.

To date, due to public scrutiny and continued media attention, the Minister for Health has been forced to delay the signing off of the contracts which would gift the hospital and its management to the St Vincent’s Healthcare Group (SVHG).

SVHG is a private charity owned by the Religious Sisters of Charity. Its practices are run according to Catholic ethos dictated by The Vatican. These Directives prohibit access to abortion, IVF and gender affirming surgeries & treatments, but also directly influence the medical treatment of miscarriage and ectopic pregnancies.

In a democratic republic, the State should own and directly manage the National Maternity Hospital. It should not cede control over this essential public service to any private body, never mind to a charity associated with the Catholic church, which has an appalling record of human rights abuses and an ethos that opposes reproductive rights for women.

Atheist Ireland campaigns for a secular healthcare system based on compassion, human rights and the medical needs of patients. No religious values should be imposed on patients who do not share those religious beliefs. The State should remove, not reinforce, the traditional privileges that religious bodies have in our healthcare provision.

Scandalously, the government is planning to spend €800 million of public money on a project that requires the Sisters of Charity to obtain permission from the Vatican to agree to it. The Vatican is the headquarters of a global religion that poses as a quasi-State when it suits its purposes. Its primary aim is not to provide healthcare, but to evangelise people into Catholicism.

This issue is not just about access to reproductive healthcare, but also about the right to freedom of conscience. Those of us who seek a National Maternity Hospital free from religious influence do so on the basis of our constitutionally protected right to freedom of conscience. The reason that politicians don’t see this as an issue of conscience is because of the influence of the Catholic Church in relation to the definition of freedom of conscience, religion and belief.

The European Court has said that secularism is a belief protected by Article 9 of the Convention, and that an aim to uphold secular and democratic values can be linked to the legitimate aim of the protection of the rights and freedoms of others within the meaning of Article 9 of the European Convention (Hamidovic v. Bosnia and Herzegovina 5.3.2018 European Court). Article 9 of the European Convention relates to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

Recent referendums on marriage equality, abortion, and blasphemy, have shown a consistent majority in favour of secular government. Our politicians should heed this message, and the State should own and manage the new National Maternity Hospital. If you would like to help with this important campaign, please contact Atheist Ireland or the Campaign Against Church Ownership of Women’s Healthcare.

Atheist Ireland