c.2013 New York Times News Service
DUBLIN — The Catholic church in Ireland on Friday condemned the government’s abortion legislation, which would permit abortions in cases where a threat existed to a woman’s life, including from suicide. The church called the legislation “a dramatically and morally unacceptable change to Irish law.”
The statement, from the Irish bishops, disputed the government’s position that the proposed legislation, introduced by the government earlier this week, merely codifies existing constitutional rights flowing from a 1992 Supreme Court ruling and does not confer new ones.
“The Heads of the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill 2013 published by the Government on Wednesday would, if approved, make the direct and intentional killing of unborn children lawful in Ireland,” the bishops’ statement said.
The statement referred in particular to the inclusion of suicide as a possible ground for abortion.
“It is a tragic moment for Irish society when we regard the deliberate destruction of a completely innocent person as an acceptable response to the threat of the preventable death of another person,” it said.
After the statement was issued, Cardinal Sean Brady told RTE, the national broadcaster, that the bishops believed the legislation was a denial of religious freedom.
“It’s not just hospitals; it’s schools,” he said. “This is very potentially menacing for institutions and for the expression of religious thought in this country.”
Brady said the bishops had not discussed if communion should be refused to politicians who supported the bill.
In February, Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, the former archbishop of St. Louis and the head of the Vatican court, urged priests to withdraw communion from politicians who supported abortion legislation in Ireland. He told The Catholic Voice newspaper that the legalization of abortion in Ireland would create a “culture of death.”
Brady said that though the bishops were calling on parliamentary representatives to oppose the bill, “there would be a great reluctance to politicize the Eucharist.”
Politicians, he said, “have an obligation to oppose the laws that are attacking something so fundamental as the right to life and they would have to follow their own conscience.”
In response, Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore said that the bishops were entitled to express their opinion, but that the legislation was intended to bring clarity to existing Irish law.
“The laws of this country are made by those of us who are elected by the people and are charged with that responsibility, and for 21 years, legislators have failed to legislate for a Supreme Court decision,” he said.
The proposed legislation would allow for the termination of a pregnancy in the limited number of cases where there is a real and substantive threat to the life of the woman, including from suicide. It is intended to clarify in what circumstances doctors can carry out abortions.
“What we have to do collectively as a society and legislators is make laws that make it clear what is the position for a pregnant woman whose life is at risk, what treatment is available to her,” Gilmore said.