Faith leaders respond to Dáil committee’s abortion verdicts

Although particulars vary, all faiths accept abortion allowed in narrow circumstances

Removal of the Eighth Amendment from the Constitution “can have no effect other than to expose unborn children to greater risk”, Catholic bishops have said.

Bishops have appealed to each member of the Oireachtas "to consider" how society can best respond to the needs of women within a legal and constitutional framework that acknowledges the right to life of the unborn, together with the equal right to life of the mother.

Asked for the bishops’ response to Wednesday’s recommendations from the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment, which included legal abortion in certain circumstances, a spokesman referred to the statement that followed last week’s winter meeting. There they “once more affirmed that article 40.3.3 has a particular vision based on respect for the life of every person”.

They discussed “the sanctity and innate dignity of every human life, from conception to natural death, as a value for the whole of society, rooted in reason as well as faith”.


The bishops also invited the faithful to read their submission last March to the Citizens' Assembly, Two Lives, One Love, as well as their recent Day for Life message Fostering a Culture that Protects Life and Respects Women. The documents are available at

Church of Ireland

A spokesman for the Church of Ireland referred to its statement last November on publication of the Citizen's Assembly recommendations. It noted how since 1983 the Church has "publicly questioned the wisdom of addressing such complex moral problems by means of amendments to the Constitution."

It continued: “Unfolding events and a range of tragic human cases over the past three decades have demonstrated the deficiencies of the constitutional approach.

“However, we would wish to emphasise that to review or question the value of the Eighth Amendment at this time is not by implication to call for easy access to abortion. Rather, it is to suggest that those complex and hopefully rare situations in which medical necessity might require termination of pregnancy would be more suitably addressed through nuanced legislation.”

Rev Dr Trevor Morrow of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland said it was "very deeply concerned that the recommendations of the Oireachtas Committee, if adopted, will create similar conditions to those in Britain, where millions of lives have been lost and unborn human life steadily devalued since 1967."

The recommendations “do not represent progress, rather a tragic reversal of the process by which we have learned to value and protect those who Jesus described as the ‘least’ among us,” he said. “A progressive society needs to continually cherish and protect the weakest and the most vulnerable, and this includes unborn children,” he said.

A Muslim perspective

Dr Ali Selim of the Islamic Cultural Centre in Clonskeagh, Dublin, said Muslims believed abortion was permitted only where the life of the mother was threatened and, even then, every attempt must he made to preserve the life of the unborn.

Rape, incest, or fatal foetal abnormality were not grounds for abortion as “none was the fault of the foetus” nor was a threat of suicide by the mother, he said. “She should he placed on 24-hour watch,” he said of any such mother.

Rabbi Zalman Lent of the Dublin Hebrew Congregation said that "in general the Orthodox Jewish view is that abortion is only permitted in cases where the mother's life is at risk from the pregnancy or if carrying the child to term would cause severe mental health problems for the mother. In those instances the foetus is considered to be 'pursuing' the life of the mother and abortion would be permitted up to birth."

He continued that “there are varying opinions with regards to rape, with some allowing the morning-after pill or other early intervention, again based on mental health repercussion for the mother. Similarly, some would allow abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities. These are normally discussed on case-by-case basis.”

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times