Catholic Church calls on Government to hold abortion referendum10/01/2013 - 11:02:48
The Catholic Church has suggested a referendum be held to overturn the Supreme Court's X case judgment on abortion.
Catholic Bishop of Elphin Christopher Jones told a parliamentary hearing on plans to legislate for the case, two decades on, that terminating a pregnancy was never morally permissible.
The senior cleric, representing Irish bishops, said high standards of maternity care in Ireland are influenced by a mother and unborn child’s equal right to life under the constitution.
“This coincides with our belief in the church, based on human reason, and affirmed by sacred scripture, that the life of a mother and her unborn baby are both sacred,” he said.
“The Catholic church has never taught that the life of a child in the womb should be preferred to that of the mother, or the life of the mother to that of the child.”
Bishop Jones said there is a vital moral distinction between medical intervention to save a mother during pregnancy complications, without intentionally seeking to end the life of an unborn child, and abortion.
It was “ethically sound” to try to save both lives, he told the hearing.
Bishop Jones said legislating for the X case was not necessary to ensure women in Ireland receive all the life-saving treatment they need during pregnancy.
There are other options available to the Government, including appropriate guidelines or a referendum to overcome the X-case judgment, he said.
Bishop Jones added: “We believe both of these options should be fully explored by the Oireachtas.”
In cases where a mother was suicidal, he said the possible and preventable death of one person can not be morally equated with the deliberate destruction of the life of a different and innocent person.
Appropriate care should be the priority for mothers who were suicidal, he said.
Dr Michael Jackson, Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin, said his church was opposed to abortion, but recognised there are exceptional cases of undeniable medical necessity were it should be an option.
There are wide-ranging views as to what constituted such cases, but the church agrees it includes cases where continuation of pregnancy poses a risk to the life of a mother, he said.
Dr Jackson said the Church of Ireland welcomed the X-case judgment at the time.
But in the absence of legislation since then, he said the legal position remains unclear.
The Bishop said this is unsatisfactory and unfair to pregnant women and medics.
“We therefore strongly welcome the decision by the Government to seek to provide clarity on this issue,” he added.
Dr Jackson said Medical Council guidelines alone were not sufficient and legislation was needed on the matter.
Heidi Good, of the Methodist Church of Ireland, said abortion on demand was not acceptable.
But she added it should be available in circumstances where a mother’s life is at risk.
The church believes it should also be allowed in cases where there is a grave risk of serious injury to the mother’s physical or mental health, cases where the unborn child has no chance of survival, and in cases of rape or incest, she said.
Ms Good said legislation should set minimum standards for social good and not reflect any particular faith or church.
The church is strongly urging the Oireachtas to legislate to give peace of mind to pregnant women and medics, she added.
They were addressing the last of three days of hearings by the Joint Committee on Health and Children, held in the Seanad chamber.
The committee is taking evidence ahead of plans to legislate for the X case, in which the Supreme Court allowed for a suicidal pregnant teenager to have an abortion 20 years ago.
It has already heard from senior medics, health chiefs, legal experts and academics.
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