Bishops say three abortion options morally unjustified

Thu, Dec 6, 2012, 00:00

The Catholic bishops have said three of the four options proposed by the expert group on abortion “can never be morally justified”.

They warned that allowing abortion on the grounds of mental health “effectively opens the floodgates for abortion”. They also query why the expert group did not propose a referendum to ban abortion or reverse the X case judgment.

The bishops made their comments yesterday in a statement they described as “an initial response by the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference” to the expert group report. They were attending their winter meeting at Maynooth, which concluded last night.

They called for “sufficient time for a calm, rational and informed debate to take place before any decision about the options offered by the expert group report are taken”.

‘Profound moral questions’

Public representatives, they said, “must consider the profound moral questions that arise in responding to this report”.

In their statement they said the Report of the Expert Group on the Judgment in A, B and C v Ireland has put forward options that could end the practice of making this vital ethical distinction in Irish hospitals.

“Of the four options presented by the report, three involve abortion – the direct and intentional killing of an unborn child. This can never be morally justified,” the bishops said.

They went on to say that “the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights does not oblige the Irish Government to legislate for abortion”. The judgment “permits options on this matter of fundamental moral, social and constitutional importance that are not offered by this report.”

Included, they said, was “the option of introducing a constitutional prohibition on abortion or another form of constitutional amendment to reverse the X case judgment”.

The report provided “no ethical analysis of the options available, even though this is first and foremost a moral issue and consideration of the ethical dimension was included in the terms of reference,” they said.

The expert group report “takes no account of the risks involved in trying to legislate for so-called ‘limited abortion’ within the context of the X case judgment”. The X case judgment “includes the threat of suicide as grounds for an abortion,” the bishops added. They said “international experience shows that allowing abortion on the grounds of mental health effectively opens the floodgates for abortion.”

Guidelines

They noted that the expert group report “also identifies guidelines as an option”.

“If guidelines can provide greater clarity as to when life-saving treatment may be provided to a pregnant mother or her unborn child within the existing legislative framework, and where the direct and intentional killing of either person continues to be excluded, then such ethically sound guidelines may offer a way forward.”

They said “current law and medical guidelines in Ireland allow nurses and doctors in Irish hospitals to apply this vital distinction in practice”.

They said “a matter of this importance deserves sufficient time for a calm, rational and informed debate” before any decision about the options offered by the expert group report are taken.

“All involved, especially public representatives, must consider the profound moral questions that arise in responding to this report. Abortion is gravely immoral in all circumstances, no matter how ‘limited’ access to abortion may be,” they said.

There is no reason why the bishops’ conference elected to publish its response to the expert group’s report on the same day as the budget, a spokeswoman said.

“The bishops will always issue their statement on the last day of their meeting, which is today,” said the spokeswoman. It would be “usual” for the bishops to publish their statement on concluding their meeting, she said.