With gender rights under attack worldwide the church should be nowhere near our new maternity hospital

With gender rights under attack worldwide the church should be nowhere near our new maternity hospital

The last week has shown that the people who supposedly govern us continue to disregard the rights of pregnant people and children. In the US, a leaked draft of an upcoming Supreme Court decision has caused uproar given that it all but ensures that the famous Roe v Wade decision, which secured federal protection of abortion rights, is about to be overturned. The landmark 1973 ruling guaranteed a person’s right to privacy and therefore the right to choose without undue government interference.

Now, in what’s the culmination of years of religious extremists’ planning alongside Republican conniving — and the prevaricating of the Democrats — the Republican judges are about to strike out the law. Although it’ll set back gender rights by decades, even more is already at stake as extremists have begun to set their sights on rolling back access to contraception. Ongoing hysteria about trans people is also part of this campaign of attacking people’s rights. And demolishing Roe v Wade is a major step in what’s a very real war. 

Closer to home our own government wages a war on the rights of pregnant people on behalf of the Catholic Church.

A Faustian deal

Despite its claims to the contrary, Ireland’s government appears to be intent on handing over control of our new National Maternity Hospital (NMH) to the Catholic Church. More specifically, until recently the Sisters of Charity owned the land on which the hospital is to be built. In the last two weeks the nuns have transferred ownership to St. Vincent’s Healthcare Group (SVHG) which will now run the NMH to ensure “clinical and operational independence”. On the surface it’d appear that the NMH will uphold Ireland’s abortion rights. 

Serious questions immediately appear though, such as the lack of clarity over what veto powers the SVHG will have over medical procedures that can be carried out at the hospital. Documents show that SVHG will charge the state rent at €10 per year for 299 years. But this can skyrocket to €850,000 if the state violates any of six particular conditions, one of which is that the NMH must only carry out procedures that are “clinically appropriate”. On top of this, the state is responsible for the construction and funding of any new buildings on the site which will be available for the landlord’s use at all times.

Considering what the church teaches on abortion and contraception, campaigners are right to be angry and worried. As has been typical with our latest government and its calculated lack of concern for people, the above is shocking but not entirely surprising. 

Who benefits?

In this case it’s hard to know what exactly’s going on or why. Although the influence of the church has disappeared from many parts of Irish society, it still holds some level of sway in the pages of our broadsheets and amongst politicians.

David Quinn of the Iona Institute is a regular commentator on social issues. What the conservative Catholic group has to offer to a more free and tolerant country compared to 20 or 30 years ago is anyone’s guess. Yet Quinn has a comfortable platform in the Irish media from which to warn of the supposed dangers of a liberal society and increased gender rights. Appearing on Newstalk Breakfast in March he told listeners that criticism of the nuns “has completely obscured the good work that the great majority of nuns have done in their lifetimes”. People now “literally demonise” them, he said.

We’ve also seen the Independent accuse people concerned about the involvement of the church with the NMH of engaging in misinformation. From the government to those with large platforms, there’s a clear bias on the side of the church in the entire saga. Nothing in which the state is in league with the church should be passed over without appropriate scrutiny. Considering our history you’d think it’d go without saying. Apparently not. 

Other elements of Irish society have also latched on to the issue. In chat groups Irish extremists have salivated over events of the last week. In their minds US judges about to set gender rights back decades and the issue of the nuns’ involvement in the NMH is part of the same battle to destroy liberalism and the left more generally. One group accused campaigners of “approaching Spanish Civil War levels of Anti-Catholicism in Ireland”. But the leaked decision of the US Supreme Court judges and the issue of the NMH is a step in the right direction for Irish ethnonationalists and the far right who deify the church and its role in Ireland.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons – William Murphy

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