The Catholic Primate of All Ireland has asked voters to “think of two lives” when they step inside the polling booth on Friday.
“To be against abortion is not simply ‘a Catholic thing’,” Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin said in a statement.
“The innate dignity of every human life is a value for the whole of society, for people of all faiths and none. It is rooted in reason as well as in faith. To take away an innocent human life can never be simply a matter of personal choice.”
He said since his last pastoral message on the topic “the Supreme Court has clarified that if the Eighth Amendment is repealed, unborn children in Ireland will have absolutely no constitutional rights.
“A vote to repeal the Eighth Amendment on May 25th would therefore pave the way for a very liberal abortion regime in Ireland, including completely unrestricted access to abortion during the first three months of pregnancy.”
As the campaign entered its closing stages, Fr Brian D’Arcy urged people to respect opposing views and said “we cannot judge” women who decide to have an abortion in difficult circumstances.
Speaking to The Irish Times in Dublin on Saturday morning where he was attending a religious conference, he said: "I could never deliberately kill anything, even a fly. All I ask for, no matter what way you vote, vote with a conscience and make sure you have a good think and pray about it.
“Whatever way you vote if you vote with your conscience then that’s fine with God.”
He said: “No matter how you vote it will not change the Catholic Church’s teaching. That is not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about how the state treats its people, which is quite different from the Catholic Church’s teaching and it is quite entitled to have its teaching. I hold by the Catholic Church’s teaching and I respect somebody who has a different view.
“I respect people who make a different decision, particularly people caught in a situation. I’ve dealt with them for 50 years now and nobody makes a decision either to keep the baby or to abort a baby easily and therefore we cannot judge.”
Yes campaigners said there were now more than 1,500 doctors who had backed a declaration of support for repealing the Eighth Amendment.
Doctors and lawyers
Signatories of Doctors Together For Yes include GPs, psychiatrists, paediatricians, opthalmologists, anaesthetists, surgeons, pathologists, radiologists, and public health specialists.
Meanwhile, over 1,000 lawyers have endorsed a similar declaration of support announced by Lawyers For Yes this week. It was published at event on Tuesday morning attended by two former Attorneys General Michael McDowell and John Rogers, and former Supreme Court Justice Catherine McGuinness.
National Together For Yes spokesman Dr Mark Murphy, said: “Doctors want change. We want to provide compassionate care to our patients and support them through crisis pregnancies, but we can’t do that as long as the Eighth Amendment remains in our Constitution.
“It ties our hands and interferes with our ability to care... These are complex and difficult decision for women, and they cannot be reduced to two rigid, blunt lines in a Constitution.”
Up to 40 doctors and No campaign supporters gathered in Dublin on Saturday, however, saying pharmacists and GPs would face a conflict of care if abortion was legalised.
Mary McConalogue, a pharmacist, said she did not know if she would be able to continue working as a pharmacist if the referendum was passed. She said the health of each patient was her primary concern and when a pregnant woman presented she was faced with two patients.
She said under the Eighth Amendment she had been able to dispense drugs to treat mothers while protecting the “unborn patient” but in future she could, by providing drugs, have a direct role “in the ending of life of one of my patients”.
“There is no medical condition for which the ending of life is a treatment,” she said.
Dr Marie Therese McKenna said the medical rule of “first do no harm” was incompatible with a practise which meant the destruction of life. “In no other area of medicine does the law ask the clinician to suspend clinical judgement and simply do as asked,” she said.
“Ending life is not healthcare.”
Dr Anne Doherty, a psychiatrist, said those in favour of abortion were using mental health grounds as a reason for abortion rather than a reason for treatment.
The country will go the polls next Friday, May 25th on the referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment.
Voters will be asked whether to remove Article 40.3.3, which gives the unborn and the mother an equal right to life, and for the regulation of the termination of pregnancy.