Ireland abortion debate: Clerics’ plea to public

Enda Kenny is already fraying over the merits of the bill. Picture: PA

Enda Kenny is already fraying over the merits of the bill. Picture: PA

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IRELAND’S Roman Catholic leaders have called on the public to lobby MPs to reject a bill that would permit abortions deemed necessary to save the life of the pregnant woman, a measure long ordered by Irish and European courts.

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In a joint statement yesterday, Ireland’s bishops, archbishops and lone cardinal described the bill, unveiled this week after decades of debate, as “a dramatic and morally unacceptable change to Irish law”.

They argued it would be most grievously wrong to give any woman an abortion to assuage her threats to commit suicide, as the bill allows.

Cardinal Sean Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and Ireland’s most senior Catholic cleric, said in an interview that the bill made the right to life of the foetus subservient to that of the mother.

“There are two lives involved here,” he said.

The latest intervention of the church in the abortion debate raises the political temperature at a moment when the two-year-old government of Fine Gael prime minister Enda Kenny is already fraying over the merits of the bill.

The government has been under international pressure to clarify the rights of doctors to perform life-saving abortions since October, when a miscarrying Indian woman died from blood poisoning in an Irish hospital after being denied a termination.

The smaller left-wing party in the coalition, Labour, supports the bill but Catholic conservatives in Mr Kenny’s party aim to weaken or block it.

Mr Kenny, who has clashed with Cardinal Brady and other church leaders over their admitted involvement in child abuse cover-ups, declined to respond to the cardinal’s statement.

However, Labour leader Eamon Gilmore said the bishops had no influence on government policy.

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