Presbyterian report bans abortion in rape, incest cases

Church accepts termination justified where there is a threat to mother’s life

The Presbyterian Church accepts abortion is justified where there is a threat to the mother’s life.  File photograph: Derek Bromhall/Getty Images

The Presbyterian Church accepts abortion is justified where there is a threat to the mother’s life. File photograph: Derek Bromhall/Getty Images

 

Abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality, rape, incest or in instances of anencephaly (where the foetus has no brain) cannot be morally justified, a report to the Presbyterian general assembly has said.

The church’s annual assembly takes place in Belfast this week, beginning today.

The Presbyterian Church accepts abortion is justified where there is a threat to the mother’s life.

In “a case of either mother and baby dying or the baby alone dying” then, it believes,“direct action with the intention or foreseen effect of taking the life of the unborn child is justified”, it says.

Prepared by the church’s abortion task group, the report states that “our conviction that human life begins at conception entails that the unborn child in a condition of FFA [fatal foetal abnormality] has the same rights as do other children without FFA and that our responsibility towards the child with FFA is at one with our responsibility towards any unborn child”.

Alleviation of pain

It continues that “we hold that the taking of a child’s life in the case of FFA cannot be justified”.

However, it added that “of course, we accept the propriety of medical intervention which has the foreseen effect of shortening life when the intention is the alleviation of pain. This is a general moral principle which applied across the board, including to unborn life”.

Incest, it says, “cannot constitute an independent ground for abortion, simply by virtue of its illegality”. Such illegality, “does not logically affect the morality of abortion”.

On abortion following rape, it says, “the horror of the offence of rape does not detract from the fact that a human being has been conceived and its rights are unaffected by the circumstances in which it came into existence”.

“The foetus is as innocent as is the mother and it is our responsibility to give every support to the mother and encouragement to carry the pregnancy to term and, if she so wishes, help make arrangements for adoption of the child.”

‘No moral responsibility’

It was the case that“although we may agree that the mother bears no moral responsibility for the upbringing or nurture of the child, that does not equate with the right to take the life of the child”.

The report questions the use of abortifacients in the immediate aftermath of rape to prevent conception, as “it is not known whether or not conception has taken place”.

However, it says “the question is whether we can be sure that the innocent being should under no circumstances be deprived of life on account of the father’s wrongdoing.

“Does human life have an unconditional right to protection at any stage after conception irrespective of the circumstances of conception? Different answers to this question are consistent with PCI’s [Presbyterian Church in Ireland] position,” it says.