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Go out and vote next Friday. Abstention is not an option.

By Cian Molloy - 21 May, 2018

Abstaining from voting in next Friday’s referendum is not an option, says Bishop Kevin Doran in a pastoral letter to the people of Elphin. Pro life letters to the faithful were also published in Cork and Ross and in Achonry this weekend.

After paying tribute to all those who have worked to save the Eighth Amendment in recent months, Bishop Doran said: “There is one thing that still remains to be done and that is for every Catholic of voting age to go out and vote next Friday, unless you are prevented from doing so by ill health. Abstaining on a matter of this importance is not really an option. I encourage parishioners to consider offering a lift to neighbours who may otherwise have difficulty getting to the polling station.”

The proposal to remove the Eighth Amendment from the Constitution cannot be separated from the government’s stated intention to legalise abortion and the deliberate taking of innocent human life, said Bishop Doran.

“This is why my guidance is that you would vote ‘No’, as an expression of real compassion both for women and for their unborn children. That compassion, in order to be authentic, must then be reflected in our practical and emotional care for women, for children and for families. I would want any woman or couple in difficulty to feel that they can approach the diocese for support.”

In his pastoral letter, Bishop Doran sets out key facts. For example: without abortion, Ireland is a world leader in healthcare for women and their babies. No matter what you may hear, women do not die because of the Eighth Amendment. Ireland has one of the lowest levels of maternal mortality in the world.

Also, based on the experience in England, the abortion legislation that the government proposes to introduce in Ireland would result in the deaths of thousands of unborn babies every year, most of whom would be perfectly healthy.

Bishop John Buckley published a pro life pastoral letter to the people of Cork and Ross last month, but this weekend he was moved to issue another letter addressing misinformation promoted by the Repeal the Eighth movement.

“Some people fail to see the humanity of the unborn and consequently their right to life,” the Cork church leader wrote. “The baby and the inhumanity of abortion are rarely mentioned in the political debates. All of us are alive because our mothers chose to accept the life in their wombs. We cannot now deny, in 2018, that the baby in the womb is alive, vulnerable and an innocent baby whose safety is in our hands. Many fathers and mothers have seen the amazing ultrasound pictures of their children. The baby’s heart starts beating at 21 days after conception.

“It is often said that those who support life are not compassionate. Compassion is not one-sided. Compassion for the mother is vital but we must also extend our compassion to the child in the womb. There is no semblance of compassion involved in ending the life of the innocent child. Compassion means that we look after the mother and the child. It is our responsibility as a society to promote every support for women in a crisis pregnancy. We must be there for each other, always, all the days of our life.”

Lastly, the Bishop addressed the myth that women’s lives are put at risk because of the current constitutional protection given to the unborn. “Under the provisions of the Eighth Amendment, no treatment is ever denied to an expectant mother,” he said. “The Church teaching is quite clear. A woman in pregnancy must be given every life-saving treatment that she needs, even if the child she is carrying will not survive this life-saving treatment. Doctors have always had to deal with situations where their intervention to save the mother’s life has resulted in the unavoidable death of the baby in the womb.”

Bishop Buckley concluded his missive by saying: “As voters, we are the unborn babies’ last line of defence. I am encouraging you again to speak to your families and friends about the issues I have outlined but to do so with respect and courtesy. Continue to pray for mothers and the unborn at this critical time. It is essential to vote ‘No’ if we are to build a truly compassionate society that values all life.”

In Achonry there is no sitting bishop, but a pastoral letter on Friday’s vote was published this weekend by the priests of the diocese. It says that working in parishes they have walked with mothers and fathers who have been overwhelmed by news of a pregnancy, who have struggled to cope and who are unsure and uncertain about the future, but who choose to welcome their child with the support, compassion, care and love of family, friends and community.

As pastors, these priests have also “shared the journeys of mothers and fathers who became aware during pregnancy that their baby has life-limiting conditions”. They write: “Though there is heartbreak, we have seen so often the gratitude of parents for precious days, hours, even minutes with their baby after birth, giving them time to name and baptise their child, making memories that live long in the heart. These experiences with the people we serve leave us with the firm conviction of the wonder of human life that begins at conception.”

Looking ahead to Friday’s vote, the Achonry pastoral concludes: “The forthcoming referendum calls us to be their voice and defend their right to life. It challenges us to be communities that show genuine compassion and practical care in every way for mothers – and fathers – for whom pregnancy causes a crisis.

“We all need to be as fully informed as we can be on the issues before us in the referendum on 25 May and on the implications of our vote. We pray and encourage you to pray with us that God will guide us and all citizens of our country to make the best decision for the unborn and their mothers.”

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