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Irish bishops oppose bid to legalize abortion

May 03, 2013

Ireland’s Catholic bishops have taken a strong stand in opposition to a bill that would legalize abortion in cases when the health of the mother was deemed at risk.

The legislation, ironically known as the “Protection of Life during Pregnancy” act, is a “dramatic and morally unacceptable change to Irish law,” the bishops said. They explained that it would “make the direct and intentional killing of unborn children lawful in Ireland.”

The legislation is “unnecessary to ensure that women receive the life-saving treatment they need during pregnancy,” the Irish bishops observed. Existing law allows doctors to take any steps that are medically necessary, even at risk to the unborn child, to save the life of a mother in a crisis pregnancy.

The pressure to modify Ireland’s abortion law arose last year after the death of Savita Halappanavar, which was originally attributed to doctors’ refusal to perform an abortion. An inquest into her case eventually found that she died because attending physicians were not aware of a sharp deterioration in her condition.

In their denunciation of the proposed legislation, the Irish bishops said that it “also appears to impose a duty on Catholic hospitals to provide abortions.” Supporters of the bill say that it would give “conscience-clause” protection to health-care personnel who did not wish to be involved in abortions; the bishops raised questions about that claim.

While they urged Catholics to contact their representatives and encourage a vote against the bill, the bishops did not outline any plans for disciplinary action against the sponsors of the legislation, including the government leadership. Questioned as to whether politicians who vote for the bill should be barred from receiving Communion, Cardinal Sean Brady of Armagh answered: “There would be a great reluctance to politicize the Eucharist.”


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