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29th May 2017, 14:21:46 UTC

Amnesty International has today welcomed the Sisters of Charity’s statement that they will be not be involved in the new national maternity hospital. It further welcomed assurances by the congregation that medical ethics codes in St Vincent’s, the new company to take over its ownership and operation, will be amended to ensure compliance with national and international best practice guidelines and Irish law.

“We welcome today’s news that the Sisters of Charity will divest itself of ownership and management of the new facility. We had been concerned at the proposed involvement in women’s health services of a religious congregration whose ethos is inherently antithetical to women’s sexual and reproductive rights. We also welcome the assurances given that the medical ethics codes of the new body to take charge of the national maternity hospital will align with best medical practice. We hope and expect that the government will ensure that the new body, St Vincent’s, will adhere to this commitment and the new facility will be free of any religious ideology prejudicial to women’s health.

“This move is particularly important as the government begins its promised consideration of reform of Ireland’s abortion law. Law reform is only one part of the Irish State’s human rights responsibility. It has an equally important duty under international human rights law to ensure that, where abortion is lawful, access to abortion services – and to information on those services – is accessible in practice. We also need a women’s health service free of religious ethos to help overcome the climate of fear and stigma currently surrounding access to abortion in Ireland.  We hope that the new arrangement will help to ensure that women are free to exercise their right to make autonomous decisions about their sexual and reproductive health ” said Fiona Crowley, Research and Legal Manager with Amnesty International Ireland.