Ireland's Abortion Debate

Bishops Criticize Report of Expert Group

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DUBLIN, DEC. 6, 2012 ( Ireland’s bishops have issued a statement criticizing the recommendations of an expert group’s report regarding abortion.

On November 27 the Report of the Expert Group regarding the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the A, B and C vs Ireland case was released. In December 2009 the court heard a case brought by three women who alleged a breach of their rights under the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

The judgment of the Court in A, B and C v Ireland confirmed that Article 40.3.3° of the Constitution is not inconsistent with the Convention. The European Court of Human Rights accepted that Article 40.3.3° of the Irish Constitution, as interpreted by the Supreme Court, provides that it is lawful to terminate a pregnancy in Ireland if it is established as a matter of probability that there is a real and substantial risk to the life, as distinct from the health, of the mother, which can only be avoided by a termination of the pregnancy.

Last week’s report made a series of recommendations to the government. According to press reports the matter will be considered this month, with recommendations to be made by the parliament’s health committee for consideration when parliament resumes early in the New Year.

The statement issued on December 5 by the Irish bishops noted that three of the four recommendations by the report involved abortion. “This can never be morally justified,” the bishops declared.

Moreover, they noted that the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights did not oblige the Irish Government to legislate in favor of abortion.

As a society, the bishops declared, we have a responsibility to defend the most fundamental of all rights – the right to life.

Equal right to life

“This includes our duty as a society to defend and promote the equal right to life of a pregnant mother and the innocent and defenseless child in her womb when the life of either of these persons is at risk,” the bishops explained.

Both a mother and her unborn baby have a right to life, but the statement added, the Church has never taught that the life of the unborn child is to be preferred to that of a mother.

“Where a seriously ill pregnant woman needs medical treatment which may put the life of her baby at risk, such treatments are morally permissible provided every effort has been made to save the life of both the mother and her baby,” the bishops stated.

Abortion, they explained, is the direct and intentional destruction of an unborn baby and is immoral. It is, however, different from medical procedures which do not directly and intentionally seek to end the life of an unborn child. 

“Current law and medical guidelines in Ireland allow nurses and doctors in Irish hospitals to apply this vital distinction in practice,” they noted.

“This has been an important factor in ensuring that Irish hospitals are among the safest and best in the world in terms of medical care for both a mother and her unborn baby during pregnancy.  As a country this is something we should cherish, promote and protect,” the bishops concluded.

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On the NET:

Web site for Ireland’s Day for Life –

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