Primate warns against abortion law


The Catholic Primate of All Ireland has said a European Court of Human Rights ruling today did not oblige the State to introduce legislation authorising abortion.

The European court ruled Ireland has failed to properly implement the constitutional right to abortion where a woman is entitled to one where her life is at risk.

In a statement tonight, Cardinal Seán Brady said the judgment "leaves future policy in Ireland on protecting the lives of unborn children in the hands of the Irish people and does not oblige Ireland to introduce legislation authorising abortion".

He said profound moral and legal issues were raised by the ruling. "The direct destruction of an innocent human life can never be justified, however difficult the circumstances. . . . No law which subordinates the rights of any human being to those of other human beings can be regarded as a just law."

Dr Brady added: "As a society we all have a responsibility to respond sensitively to any woman who finds herself dealing with an unplanned pregnancy. I urge anyone in this situation to contact Cura, the crisis pregnancy support service."

Earlier today, the Pro-Life Campaign has called for a referendum on abortion in the wake of the European Court of Human Rights ruling.

The campaign’s legal director, Dr William Binchy, said legislating on the basis of the 1992 Supreme Court ruling, which found terminating a pregnancy is lawful where the life of a mother is at risk, would be “folly” because that decision was based on “faulty medical understanding”.

“We have a choice between legislation and a referendum and our strong proposal is that we should be a referendum, after due consideration,” he said.

“The Irish people must now consider this whole question of protection for unborn life and we can do one of two things. We can go on the lines of the Supreme Court and implement legislation based on a decision taken on faulty medical understanding or we can have a referendum which seeks to protect the unborn and back that up with legislation,” he added.

Dr Binchy said today’s ruling did not oblige the Government to legislate because the court recognised that every state was entitled to formulate its own abortion policy.

“However, if a state does have grounds for abortion the court says these grounds should be clarified through legislation," he argued.  “We do not have legislation in this country and the argument that succeeded in the court was in the absence of that legislation people would be in a situation where they would not know where they stood.”

Dr Binchy said doctors in Irish hospitals were engaged in a process of seeking to protect two patients – the mother and the child and that no woman died in Irish hospitals in circumstances arising out of concern for the protection of an unborn child.

He said it was significant that the court did not advance the argument that the right to abortion is enshrined under the European Convention on Human Rights.

He admitted there would be “little appetite” in Government for another referendum.

“You can understand why politicians might not want to rush back to an issue which divided the people so closely. But now the issue has been thrust back into the political domain and it would be most unfortunate if this case were interpreted as saying that Ireland must legislate for abortion.”

Asked whether a referendum had the potential to be as bitter and divisive as previous referenda he said people had got to a stage where they respected each other’s position and the entitlement of the other to be heard.

He appealed for “calm and respectful” debate on the issue.

Anti-abortion group Youth Defence described the ruling as "intrusive, unwelcome and an attempt to violate Ireland's pro-life laws". Spokeswoman Rebecca Roughneen said the court’s judgement was "not surprising" given that the court had shown in previous rulings that it supported abortion.