The Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference on Wednesday replied to the report of the expert group on abortion saying it is "gravely immoral" and the Church considers right to life as the most fundamental of all rights.
The expert group's report came amid the controversy over Indian dentist Savita Halappanavar’s death after she was denied abortion despite apparent risk to her life.
Of the four options presented by the report, three involve abortion. "This can never be morally justified. The judgement of the European Court of Human Rights does not oblige the Irish Government to legislate for abortion," the Catholic Bishops' Conference said.
As a society we have a particular responsibility to ensure the right to life is upheld on behalf of those who are defenceless, voiceless or vulnerable, said the Bishops.
"This includes our duty as a society to defend and promote the equal right to life of a pregnant mother and the innocent and defenceless child in her womb when the life of either of these persons is at risk."
The Catholic Church, they said, has never taught that the life of a child in the womb should be preferred to that of a mother. "Where a seriously ill pregnant woman needs medical treatment which may put the life of her baby at risk, such treatments are morally permissible provided every effort has been made to save the life of both the mother and her baby," the Bishops said in a statement.
Criticising the expert group's report, the Bishops said it provided "no ethical analysis of the options available, even though this is first and foremost a moral issue and consideration of the ethical dimension was included in the Terms of Reference".
"A matter of this importance deserves sufficient time for a calm, rational and informed debate to take place before any decision about the options offered by the Expert Group Report are taken," the statement said.
"All involved, especially public representatives, must consider the profound moral questions that arise in responding to this Report. Abortion is gravely immoral in all circumstances, no matter how ‘limited’ access to abortion may be."
On Tuesday, several thousand people attended an anti-abortion vigil outside the Dáil Eireann in Dublin.
Archbishop of Tuam Michael Neary, Bishop of Kilmore Leo O’Reilly, Bishop of Killaloe Kieran O’Reilly, Bishop of Ossory Seamus Freeman, and the administrator of Derry diocese Msgr Eamon Martin, attended the rally, according to the Irish Times.
Participants holding candles, banners and posters called for Fine Gael, the leading political party, to keep “their pro-life promise”.
The protest was organised by Pro-Life Campaign, Youth Defence, the Life Institute, and Family and Life.
“We are not for turning and we will not yield. We are proud to be a pro-life nation, we are here to tell the politicians in Dáil Éireann that they may have destroyed our economy but we will never let them kill our children," Niamh Uí Bhriain, the spokeswoman for the Life Institute, was quoted saying.
The Irish government is under growing pressure to legislate for abortion after the death of Halappanavar on October 28.
Savita died days after she had a miscarriage as she was denied her request for an abortion by doctors at Galway University Hospital.
The doctors denied the request on basis that the foetus still had a heart-beat and that Irish law prevented abortion on such occasions.
Though Ireland's constitution officially bans abortion, a 1992 Supreme Court ruling called for legalising the surgical procedure when the woman's life is at risk.
Irish bishops react to expert report, says abortion 'gravely immoral'
By: John Malhotra
Friday, 7 December 2012, 14:56 (IST)
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