Catholic bishop says abortion is 'not a medical treatment'

A Catholic bishop has said that abortion is “not a medical treatment” but is “the direct and intentional destruction of an unborn baby and is gravely immoral in all circumstances”, writes Conor Kane.

Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan made his comments at a conference in Waterford City at the weekend, when he reiterated the Catholic Church’s view that “a mother and her unborn baby have an equal right to life”.

He also criticised the vote by UCD students to impeach students’ union president Katie Ascough, saying that a pro-life student leader “will have a hard time in Ireland”.

The bishop said in a speech that the church had never taught that the life of a child in the womb should be “preferred” to that of a mother and that, where a seriously ill pregnant woman needs medical treatment which may “as a secondary effect” put the life of her baby at risk, “such treatments are always ethically permissible provided every effort has been made to save the life of both the mother and her baby”.

Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan

If the baby survives, “everyone is happy” in such circumstances, he said, “because the intention was to save the lives of both. In an abortion the baby is the target.”

He described abortion as “the direct and intentional destruction of an unborn baby” and “gravely immoral” in all circumstances. “It is not a medical treatment.”

Bishop Cullinan, of the Waterford and Lismore diocese, was speaking at a conference hosted by his diocese on the theme of “A Crisis of Democracy in Ireland”.

The bishop drew controversy last month when he questioned the safety of the HPV vaccine used to prevent cervical cancer, and said it was “lulling” young girls into promiscuity. He later apologised for his remarks and for contributing “any misinformation” while “not fully informed” about the vaccine programme.

He said on Saturday the Catholic Church did not share the view of some that abortion should be permitted in “certain difficult circumstances”.

Every unborn child, he said, “irrespective of his of her medical condition or the circumstances of his or her birth, has the right to be treated equally before the law”.

Bishop Cullinan criticised the vote to impeach students’ union president Katie Ascough, “who is unashamedly pro-life” and refused to allow abortion information be published in student union literature. “So if you are pro-life and a SU president, you will have a hard time in Ireland. Where is freedom of speech? Where is the freedom to speak one’s mind? Is this not a basic element of any democratic society?”

The most basic of human rights, he added, is the “right to life” and fundamental human rights are not “given” by society and cannot be taken away from society. “The deletion or amendment of Article 40.3.3 [the eighth amendment to the Constitution] would serve no purpose other than to withdraw the right to life from some categories of unborn children. To do so would radically change the principle, for all unborn children and indeed for all of us, that the right to life is a fundamental human right.”

The argument that abortion is itself is a human right is “inconsistent with an integral understanding of human rights,” Archbishop Cullinan said.


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