Ireland’s Catholic bishops have said they are “dismayed” that the voices of those who voted not to repeal the eighth amendment and allow abortion in the State have, for the most part, been ignored since last May’s referendum.
In a statement following their winter general meeting, the bishops said that amendments to the Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy Bill that many would have “deemed to have be very reasonable” had been rejected. They cited amendments on issues such as seeking to provide women with information and to prohibit abortion on the grounds of sex, race or disability.
The new law will legalise free access to abortion up to 12 weeks’ gestation. Beyond that, terminations will only be legal in cases where there is a risk to the life or serious harm to the health of the woman, or where there is a diagnosis of a fatal foetal abnormality.
“We are dismayed that, for the most part, the voices of those who voted against abortion in May’s referendum have been ignored,” the bishops said.
“As we stated after our Autumn Meeting, Irish society must have respect for the right of conscientious objection for all healthcare professionals and pharmacists. They cannot be forced either to participate in abortion or to refer patients to others for abortion.”
The bishops said “every one of us has a right to life. It is not given to us by the Constitution of Ireland or by any law... The direct and intentional taking of human life at any stage is gravely wrong and can never be justified.”
The continued: “Women’s lives, and the lives of their unborn children, are precious, valued and always deserving of protection. Any law which suggests otherwise would have no moral force. In good conscience it cannot be supported and would have to be resisted.”
The statement came after the Dáil on Wednesday night voted by a margin of 90 to 15 to approve the abortion legislation, which has now moved on for consideration in the Seanad.
Speaking to reporters in Dublin on Thursday, Minister for Health Simon Harris said claims from anti-abortion politicians that the legislation was being rushed through the Oireachtas were "offensive".
He said he was “cautiously optimistic” the Upper House would pass the legislation in the next week or 10 days.
When asked about anti-abortion Senators attempting to potentially hold up the process by filibustering, Mr Harris said the issue had already been discussed at length.
“When I hear some opponents of the legislation suggesting that it is being rushed I actually think that’s really offensive to women in this country,” he said. “I think it’s offensive to people who’ve been working to arrive at this point for 35 years.”
Mr Harris said he hoped the legislation would reach report stage in the Seanad by the end of next week, where Senators can table and vote on amendments to the Bill, before voting on whether to approve it. The Government has been pushing for the legislation to be passed and enacted in time for abortion services to be introduced in January.