Legislating for X case 'not necessary' to ensure life-saving treatment for mother

Fri, Jan 11, 2013, 00:00

Legislating for the X case will allow for the direct and intentional killing of the baby in the womb, Catholic Bishop of Elphin Christopher Jones has said.

He claimed it would remove the obligation to make every effort, at all times, to preserve the life of both the mother and her unborn baby.

“It is not necessary to legislate for the X case to ensure that women in Ireland receive all the life-saving treatment they need during pregnancy,” Dr Jones added. “It is not necessary to satisfy the European Court of Human Rights. There is another way.”

Dr Jones said other options available to the Government, which should be fully explored by the Oireachtas, included the introduction of appropriate guidelines that continued to exclude the direct and intentional killing of the unborn, or a referendum to overturn the X case judgment.

‘Moral distinction’

He said the Catholic Church recognised a vital moral distinction between medical intervention to save the life of a mother and abortion.

“Abortion, understood as the direct and intentional killing of an unborn child in the womb, is never morally permissible,” he added. “This is because directly and intentionally taking the life of any innocent person is never morally acceptable.”

Dr Jones said the Supreme Court judgment in the X case was not a basis on which to move forward. The court had unilaterally overturned the pro-life intention and the will of the people in the 1983 referendum.

Dr Jones said any suggestion that Ireland was an unsafe place for pregnant mothers, in the absence of abortion, was a complete distortion of the truth. It was also gravely unjust to the doctors, nurses and midwives who had achieved such internationally celebrated standards of maternity care, which had been influenced in no small part by the constitutional recognition of the equal right to life of the mother and her unborn.

Church of Ireland stance

Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin Michael Jackson said his church opposed abortion in principle but acknowledged there were exceptional cases of “strict and undeniable medical necessity” where it was and should be an option. While there was a variety of opinion on what constituted exceptional cases, there was agreement it included circumstances where the continuation of the pregnancy posed a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother.

Dr Jackson said the current position was unclear, unsatisfactory and unfair to medical professionals, who deserved to be able to make critical, clinical decisions in a secure and well-regulated framework.

Accordingly, the Government’s decision to seek to provide clarity was welcome.

“It is agreed that where there is a strict and undeniable medical necessity requiring the ending of a pregnancy at a later stage, where possible this should be done in a manner that preserves the life of the unborn without compromising the life of the woman,” he said.

Dr Jackson said special provision should be made for emergency situations, and the review panel, suggested by the expert group, should include a lawyer.