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Irish government sets up expert panel to consider change in abortion law

Catholic World News - January 16, 2012

The Irish government has set up an “expert group” to study the nation’s abortion law, in response to a 2010 decision by the European Court of Human Rights that the Irish law fails to provide adequate protection for women whose lives are endangered by pregnancy.

The European Court decision did not challenge Ireland’s ban on legal abortion, but said that the country should make provisions for women who face life-threatening pregnancies. The 14-member “expert group” established to suggest an appropriate response will be chaired by Justice Sean Ryan, who previously chaired the commission that produced the explosive “Ryan Report” on institutional abuse of Irish children.

Pro-life activists pointed out that the European Court decision acknowledged the country’s right to make abortion illegal, and said that no major change in Irish law is necessary. Ruth Cullen of the Pro Life Campaign said: “The establishment of the expert group presents a genuine opportunity to re-affirm the ethical distinction between necessary medical interventions in pregnancy and induced abortion, which intentionally targets the life of the baby.”

Advocates of legal abortion, on the other hand, claimed that a change in current Irish law is overdue. The government’s decision to establish an “expert group” could easily be seen as a move toward acceptance of legal abortion. The announcement comes at a time when the public influence of the Catholic Church, traditionally a bulwark of support for the pro-life position, has been gravely damaged by sex-abuse revelations.

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