Irish bishops: the right to life is the most fundamental of all rights
(Vatican Radio) The Irish Bishops have issued an initial response to a report by
a government appointed expert group into the European Court for Human Rights judgement
in A,B and C versus Ireland, which states that legislation to regulate access to lawful
termination of pregnancy in Ireland is “constitutionally, legally and procedurally
sound”. The Bishops, who are currently in their winter meeting in Maynooth, state
that the report “has put forward options that could end the practice of making this
vital ethical distinction in Irish hospitals. Of the four options presented by the
Report, three involve abortion – the direct and intentional killing of an unborn
child. This can never be morally justified. The judgement of the European Court of
Human Rights does not oblige the Irish Government to legislate for abortion”. The
Bishops also question why the Report does not propose a referendum on the issue of
protecting the life of the unborn which is enshrined in Ireland’s constitution. Tuesday
evening thousands of people descended on parliament buildings in Dublin for a candle
light vigil calling on the government to uphold its promise to protect life. Below
the full statement of the Irish Bishops:
response by the Irish Catholic Bishop’s Conference to the Report of the
Expert Group on the Judgement in A, B and C v Ireland A society that believes
the right to life is the most fundamental of all rights cannot ignore the fact that
abortion is first and foremost a moral issue.
As a society we have a particular
responsibility to ensure this right is upheld on behalf of those who are defenceless,
voiceless or vulnerable. This includes our duty as a society to defend and promote
the equal right to life of a pregnant mother and the innocent and defenceless child
in her womb when the life of either of these persons is at risk.
of their common humanity the life of a mother and her unborn baby are both sacred.
They have an equal right to life. The Catholic Church has never taught that the life
of a child in the womb should be preferred to that of a mother. Where a seriously
ill pregnant woman needs medical treatment which may put the life of her baby at risk,
such treatments are morally permissible provided every effort has been made to save
the life of both the mother and her baby.
Abortion, understood as the direct
and intentional destruction of an unborn baby, is gravely immoral in all circumstances.
This is different from medical treatments whichdo not directly and intentionally
seek to end the life of the unborn baby.
Current law and medical guidelines
in Ireland allow nurses and doctors in Irish hospitals to apply this vital distinction
in practice. This has been an important factor in ensuring that Irish hospitals are
among the safest and best in the world in terms of medical care for both a mother
and her unborn baby during pregnancy. As a country this is something we should cherish,
promote and protect.
The Report of theExpert Group on the Judgement
in A, B and C v Ireland has put forward options that could end the practice of
making this vital ethical distinction in Irish hospitals. Of the four options presented
by the Report, three involve abortion – the direct and intentional killing
of an unborn child. This can never be morally justified. The judgement of the European
Court of Human Rights does not oblige the Irish Government to legislate for abortion.
Other aspects of the Report also give rise to concerns. These include,
but are not limited to the fact that:
The judgement of the European
Court of Human Rights permits options on this matter of fundamental moral, social
and constitutional importance that are not offered by this Report. This includes
the option of introducing a constitutional prohibition on abortion or another form
of constitutional amendment to reverse the ‘X-case’ judgement. The Report
provides no ethical analysis of the options available, even though this is first and
foremost a moral issue and consideration of the ethical dimension was included in
the Terms of Reference. The Report takes no account of the risks
involved in trying to legislate for so-called ‘limited abortion’ within the context
of the ‘X-case’ judgement. The ‘X-case’ judgement includes the threat of suicide
as grounds for an abortion. International experience shows that allowing abortion
on the grounds of mental health effectively opens the floodgates for abortion.
Report also identifies Guidelines as an option. It notes that Guidelines can
help to ensure consistency in the delivery of medical treatment. If Guidelines can
provide greater clarity as to when life-saving treatment may be provided to a pregnant
mother or her unborn child within the existing legislative framework, and where the
direct and intentional killing of either person continues to be excluded, then such
ethically sound Guidelines may offer a way forward.
A matter of this importance
deserves sufficient time for a calm, rational and informed debate to take place before
any decision about the options offered by the Expert Group Report are taken. All
involved, especially public representatives, must consider the profound moral questions
that arise in responding to this Report. Abortion is gravely immoral in all circumstances,
no matter how ‘limited’ access to abortion may be.