Repealing Eighth Amendment would redefine life ‘for all’, say Catholic bishops

No logical or scientific basis for considering unborn child to be a non-person, say prelates

The bishops said there is “no such thing as a human life without value”.

The bishops said there is “no such thing as a human life without value”.

 

Removing the Eighth Amendment from the Constitution would radically change the principle that the right to life is a fundamental human entitlement, Ireland’s Catholic bishops have said.

The right to life was unique “because, in the absence of that right, no other civil or natural right can be exercised, either now or in the future,” they said.

They made the observations in a submission to the Citizens’ Assembly yesterday. It will be available in parishes over coming weeks.

The Eighth Amendment, article 40.3.3 of the Constitution, states: “The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.”

The bishops said: “We believe that human life is sacred from conception until natural death and that article 40.3.3 reflects the appropriate balance of rights.”

They reiterated their “firmly held belief, based on reason as well as faith, that there is no such thing as a human life without value” and rejected “the suggestion that any person can decide when it is time for another person to die”.

‘No purpose’

Repealing the Eighth Amendment “would serve no purpose other than to withdraw the right to life from some categories of unborn children. To do so would radically change the principle, for all unborn children and indeed for all of us, that the right to life is a fundamental human right,” they said.

In the debate “some have argued that abortion itself is a human right”, they said. This view, in their opinion, was “ inconsistent with an integral understanding of human rights”.

The Eighth Amendment “does not concede the right to life to the unborn, but acknowledges that right as a fundamental right, which belongs to the unborn by virtue of his or her being a person.”

It also “describes the right to life of the unborn as ‘equal’ to the right to life of the mother” and “quite rightly does not place the right to life of the unborn above that of the mother”, they said.

They noted, however, the Eighth Amendment “does not guarantee, in all circumstances, to be able to defend and vindicate the right to life of the unborn, anymore than it can in the case of people who are born and living in our towns and villages. The State does, however, guarantee to respect the right to life of the unborn in its laws, just as it does in the case of other persons.”

There was “ no moment as developmentally significant as the moment of fertilisation, in terms of defining the beginnings of personal existence. There is no logical or scientific basis for considering, on the one hand, a born child to be a person with all the rights that this involves and, on the other hand, an unborn child to be a non-person,” they said.

“The distinct identity of a human individual is already present once fertilisation has taken place. Everything else is simply the process of growth and development of a person who has already embarked on the journey of life,” they said.

The bishops also expressed concern at the use of language in the context. “Language is being used with the intention of depersonalising certain categories of unborn children in a way which seeks to normalise abortion,”they said.

“Words like ‘foetus’ and ‘embryo’ and ‘zygote’ have specific technical meanings,” they said. “We question why, in public discourse, healthy unborn children are always referred to as ‘the baby’ while those who, in the opinion of some, do not measure up to expectations are routinely defined as the ‘foetus’ or the ‘embryo’?”

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