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Bishop’s statement – A time to uphold the right to life

By Ann Marie Foley - 12 June, 2013

We are at a defining moment for our country, according to Catholic Bishops who issued a statement on the proposed abortion laws on the second day of the June General Meeting of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference in Maynooth.

“The Gospel challenges us to work for a world in which the dignity and beauty of every human life are respected,” the bishops state. “The right to life is the most fundamental of all rights; it is the foundation of all other rights.  No individual has the right to destroy life and no State has the right to undermine the right to life. Yet the Irish Government is proposing abortion legislation that will fundamentally change the culture of medical practice in Ireland.  For the first time legislation will be enacted permitting the deliberate and intentional killing of an unborn child. This represents a radical change. Every citizen, not just people of faith, should be deeply concerned.”

The bishops state that they value the skill and efforts of doctors, nurses and other care professionals who have helped to earn Ireland’s place as one of the safest countries in the world for mothers and their babies during pregnancy. The Catholic Church teaching that where a seriously ill pregnant woman needs medical treatment which may put the life of her baby at risk, such treatments are ethically permissible provided every effort is made to save both the mother and her baby.

“This is different from abortion, which is the direct and intentional taking of the innocent life of the unborn.  No matter what legislation is passed in any country, abortion is, and always will be, gravely wrong,” they state.

The bishops call for freedom of conscience and write that a State that truly cherishes freedom will respect the conscience of its citizens, including its public representatives, on such an important human value as the right to life.

On RTE Radio News at One Archbishop Eamon Martin, Coadjutor Archbishop of Armagh, said: “We are trying to get everyone to search deep in their hearts to look at what is really an issue of universal morality, a matter of the natural law, which would be wrong even if there were no excommunication or whatever and see ‘can I in reality support this legislation?’”

Bishop Brendan Leahy said that freedom of conscience is a fundamental human right.

“We are saying that all across the (political) parties that there be this freedom of conscience and possibly freedom to make amendments, and to offer advice as to how this legislation should be,” he said on RTE Television Six One News.

In their statement the bishops write that the Government is under no obligation to legislate for the X case.  Contrary to clear psychiatric evidence, this legislation proposes abortion as an appropriate response to women with suicidal feelings during pregnancy.  It is even possible to envisage as a result of this legislation the deliberate destruction of a child, who could otherwise be saved, right up to and including the moment of birth.

The bishops challenge assurances that the proposed legislation will provide limited access to abortion.  It has been learned from other countries that such legislation opens the door to ever wider availability of abortion. They feel that enhanced medical guidelines, which do not envisage the direct and intentional killing of the unborn, could provide the necessary clarity as well as a morally, legally and medically acceptable way forward.

They also say it is ethically unacceptable to expect doctors, nurses and others who have conscientious objections to nominate others to take their place. Neither should any institution with a pro-life ethos be forced to provide abortion service. The bishops conclude by calling  on citizens to exercise their right to make their views known respectfully to our public representatives: and on public representatives to uphold the equal and inviolable right to life of all human beings, “even if this means standing above other pressures and party loyalties.” They also call for priests and the people to continue to pray that the dignity and value of all human life will continue to be upheld.

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