Bishops criticise abortion report

 

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

In a statement today, the bishops queried why the expert group's Report of the Expert Group on the Judgement in A, B and C v Ireland did not propose a referendum to ban abortion or reverse the X-case judgment.

They also 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.”

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

The bishops are currently attending their winter meeting in Maynooth. It concludes this evening.

In their statement today, they said the report “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.”

They go on to say that the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights does not oblige the Government to legislate for abortion.

In their statement, which they describe as an initial response by the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference to the expert group report, they said “the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights 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 ruling.

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, adding that it “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.”

They continued that “international experience shows that allowing abortion on the grounds of mental health effectively opens the floodgates for abortion".

They also noted that the report also identifies guidelines as an option. It notes that guidelines can help to ensure consistency in the delivery of medical treatment. “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 distinction. “This has been an important factor in ensuring that Irish hospitals are among the safest and best in the world in terms of medical care for both a mother and her unborn baby during pregnancy. As a country this is something we should cherish, promote and protect.”

They concluded that “a matter of this importance deserves 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. 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.”

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland this morning, Bishop of Kilmore Leo O’Reilly said the expert group report was “somewhat flawed” as it had only considered a limited range of options.

He said the group had not sought the opinions of an ethical expert and had not followed its own terms of reference to consider the ethical issues relating to abortion.

Yesterday, Minister for Health James Reilly reiterated the Coalition’s “firm commitment” to bring legal clarity to the issue of lawful abortion in Ireland, but said that would “not mean abortion on demand”.

Five members of the Catholic hierarchy, including Bishop O’Reilly, joined thousands of anti-abortion protesters at a vigil outside the Dáil last night. The protest was organised by Pro-Life Campaign, Youth Defence, the Life Institute, and Family and Life.

Dr O’Reilly said today that legislation for abortion is “not acceptable”.

“Three of the four proposals by the expert group include abortion, and that is not something that is acceptable in Catholic teaching, as everybody knows,” he said.

He added that the Government must do “whatever is necessary" to ensure that the life of the mother and the life of the child are both protected. “Our position is not that one is more precious than the other. Each has an equal right to life and we believe that in the current medical practice it is possible to respect that right for both,” he said.

Following the death of Savita Halappanavar, the standing committee of the Irish Catholic Bishops Conference issued a statement last month saying the Church “has never taught that the life of a child in the womb should be preferred to that of a mother”.

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