Irish Prelate Addresses Government Committee on Abortion Legislation in Ireland

Bishop Christopher Jones Says Right to Life is Natural and Inviolable

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Bishop Christopher Jones, Chair of the Catholic Bishop’s Council for Marriage and the Family in Ireland, addressed a government committee hearing last week regarding the legal status of abortion in the country.

The bishop’s presentation was part of a three day hearing of the Oireachtas Health Committee on the Implementation of the Government Decision Following the Expert Group Report into matters relating to ABC vs. Ireland – a case which deals with three Irish women who sought abortions in the UK due to Ireland’s laws which prohibit abortions.

Abortion is illegal in Ireland except when it occurs as the result of a medical procedure performed to save the life of the mother. However, on December 18, 2012, the government announced it would introduce legislation to allow abortions in additional cases, such as when a woman is at risk of suicide due to a crisis pregnancy.

Bishop Jones of the diocese Elphin, who is also President of ACCORD, Catholic Marriage Care Service, addressed the committee, emphasizing: «As a Church we also want to see mothers and their unborn children receive all the medical care and life-saving treatment they need during pregnancy. There is nothing in current Irish law, in current medical guidelines or in Catholic ethics that prevents such treatment from being given.»

Bishop Jones challenged the claim that the safety of pregnant mothers is jeopardized by Ireland’s legal prohibition of abortion. «In Ireland we have one of the lowest rates of maternal mortality in the world during pregnancy. This is something we should be proud of as a nation. It is something we should do all in our power to cherish and protect,» he said.

«Any suggestion that Ireland is an unsafe place for pregnant mothers because we do not have abortion is a complete distortion of the truth. It is also gravely unjust to the doctors, nurses and midwives in our hospitals who have achieved such internationally celebrated standards of maternity care,» Bishop Jones said.

He reminded the committee that the Catholic Church «has never taught that the life of the child in the womb should be preferred to that of the mother, or the life of the mother to that of the child,» and that «abortion, understood as the direct and intentional killing of an unborn child in the womb, is never morally permissible. This is because directly and intentionally taking the life of any innocent person is never morally acceptable.»

The Church, moreover, does not prohibit «medical treatments to save the life of the mother where there is no other option and where the intervention does not directly and intentionally seek to end the life of the unborn baby… This position, which is ethically sound, represents best practice in Irish hospitals today.»

Bishop Jones also criticized the notion that abortion was a valid way of treating a pregnant mother with suicidal tendencies stemming from an unwanted pregnancy, «whereas current research indicates that suicidal ideation rarely relates to a single cause and that abortion itself can lead to suicidal ideation and mental health difficulties. The position it took is also morally unacceptable. You cannot morally equate the possible but preventable death of one person with the deliberate and intentional destruction of the life of a different, totally innocent person… Taking the life of another innocent person, with absolutely no guarantee that it will remove suicidal thoughts and the real possibility that it may make the situation worse, can never be regarded as a humane or morally appropriate response.»

Concluding his remarks, Bishop Jones asserted that the Church would continue to provide care and support for women facing difficult decisions in preganancy, as well as to continue to «pray for a society «which cherishes and respects the precious gift of life from the first moment of conception to natural death.»

«The right to life does not depend on our physical or mental state. It does not depend on our religious faith. It is a natural and inviolable right that no individual, no majority and no State can ever create, modify or destroy,» Bishop Jones said. 

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Ann Schneible

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