LEICESTER, United Kingdom – Ireland’s bishops have called the requirement that applicants to new posts at Dublins’s National Maternity Hospital be willing to carry out elective abortions, a violation of a doctor’s “constitutional and human right to freedom of conscience.”

The recent advertisement for consultants in obstetrics/gynecology and anesthesia at the hospital said they must be willing to carry out abortions to be considered for the positions.

“A doctor who is eminently qualified to work as a consultant in these fields is denied employment in these roles because of his/her conscience,” the bishops said in a March 13 statement.

“Doctors who are pro-life and who may have spent over a decade training in these areas and who may otherwise be the best candidate for these positions are now advised that, should they apply, they would not be eligible for consideration.  This totally undermines the whole concept of freedom of conscience which was guaranteed in the recent legislation,” the statement continued.

“The consequence for the entire training and recruitment of doctors to work in these positions in hospitals in Ireland is greatly undermined by these advertisements,” the bishops said.

Abortion became legal in Ireland at the beginning of the year, after the country voted to end constitutional protections for the unborn in a referendum last year.

The Irish government has said that it will protect the conscience rights of doctors when it comes to abortion, but that all hospitals that receive any public funding – including Catholic hospitals – will have to allow abortions to be performed on their premises.

A hospital spokesman denied the recent advertisements were undermining conscientious objection guidelines.

He told the Irish Independent that the new posts were being funded for “the very specific purpose of providing termination of pregnancy services.”

“They are, therefore, for individuals willing to contribute to the provision of these services. Other past and future posts are not affected,” the spokesman said.