Tánaiste disagrees with Pope's stance on abortion

The Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has said women are entitled to "more than mercy and understanding" when it comes to medical abortions.

Yesterday, Pope Benedict appeared to weigh in on the abortion debate in Ireland when he expressed his dismay at plans to legislate for terminations in countries of Christian tradition.

He also told the Vatican diplomatic corps that the Church is not lacking in understanding and mercy for the mother involved.

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore said the Pope was expressing the long-held view of the Catholic church and he disagrees.

His comments come as a three-day hearing of the Oireachtas Health Committee starts to hear from legal professionals, churches and advocacy groups.

The master of the national maternity hospital has told the committee clarity on abortions is needed when the risk to the life of a woman is not immediate.

Doctor Rhona Mahony has told committee that doctors will always save a life whenever they can, including when a foetus is viable.

Earlier the Irish Medical Council told the hearing that protection of the public is paramount and urged the Coalition to clearly spell out the number of doctors who should make a decision on when to carry out an abortion.

Dr Mahony said doctors need legal protection for what they effectively do now.

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