Repealing the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees the equal right to life of mother and unborn, “would leave unborn children at the mercy of whatever permissive abortion laws might be introduced in Ireland in the future”, the Catholic bishops have said.
To remove the Eighth Amendment would be “a shocking step” and “a manifest injustice” to the unborn, they added.
“Article 40.3.3 is a declaration of equality and respect for human life. It represents, at the very foundations and substructure of our laws, a conviction that all human life is worth cherishing equally,” the bishops said.
In a statement from their spring meeting on Tuesday night, and the last likely to be held before a referendum on the Eighth Amendment takes place in May, the bishops said that “today we see more clearly that human life begins at conception. There is no later stage in a baby’s development where we can say; ‘up until now the foetus was not a person and now it has become a baby’.”
The right to life “is not given to us by the Constitution of Ireland or by any law. We have it ‘as of right’, whether we are wealthy or poor, healthy or sick. All human beings have it. For us as a society to now declare that any category of human being should have that right taken from them would be a shocking step. It effectively says that unborn children do not exist or, if they do, they do not count. That is a manifest injustice,” they said.
The bishops said making abortion freely available “desensitises people to the value of every human life. The scientific evidence about the beginning of human life has never been clearer. It is, therefore, a great irony that we in Ireland are for the first time in our history losing our clarity about the right to life of the unborn.”
They also point out that “by using the word ‘choice’ we need to remember that, for the baby waiting to be born, the choice we make can be a matter of life or death.”
Care and support
An expectant mother “needs and deserves the care and support of everyone around her, particularly if her pregnancy poses a serious crisis for her and her family. A mother may be informed that her baby faces serious challenges or is perhaps terminally ill. She might be pregnant as a result of rape. Especially in those tragic cases both the mother and her unborn child can – and must – be loved and cherished,” they said.
“A compassionate society will do all in its power to support and love the mother and baby, and encourage responsible support from fathers,” they said, while it was “our common humanity that convinces us of the right to life of every human being.”
The bishops concluded their statement by inviting “people of faith to pray earnestly that Ireland will ‘choose life’ and that the lives of all women and their unborn children will always be loved, valued, welcomed and respected in this country.