The Irish government has announced that it will introduce legislation on abortion that will legalize the procedure in cases where the mother’s life is at risk, drawing criticism pro-life advocates.
Independent Irish Senator Ronan Mullen said in the Irish Senate that the move showed “no concern for unborn children” and was a contradictory act in the wake of condemnations of the massive school shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut, the Irish newspaper The Journal reports.
“I find it entirely appropriate that we would join in solidarity with the people, with the children who died in Connecticut,” he said.
“Let's be sincere about that. And let's not slip into a double-think either, however, where we forget a whole category of children in our own country."
The proposal is meant to bring the country’s laws in line with a December 2010 ruling from the European Court of Human Rights that said Ireland needed to clarify the legal status of abortion, in line with a 1992 Irish Supreme Court decision held that abortion must permissible to save the life of a pregnant woman, including when she threatens suicide.
Irish law was never changed to reflect that ruling.
Health Minister James Reilly said that most people have “personal views” on the question.
“However, the Government is committed to ensuring that the safety of pregnant women in Ireland is maintained and strengthened. We must fulfill our duty of care towards them,” he said Dec. 18.
He said the government will pass legislation and regulation clarifying “what is available by way of treatment to a woman when a pregnancy gives rise to a threat to a woman’s life.”
“We will also clarify what is legal for the professionals who must provide that care while at all times taking full account of the equal right to life of the unborn child,” he said.
Niamh Ui Bhriain, spokeswoman for the Dublin-based Life Institute, was critical of the action.
“Obviously we’re very unhappy with the approach the government is taking,” she told CNA Dec. 18.
She added that the government has not yet said whether it will move to legalize abortion in cases where the pregnant mother threatens suicide. Pro-life advocates fear that such an exception will allow abortion on demand, as happened in England.
The decision on suicide will not be made until next year, Ui Bhriain said.
The push for changes to Irish abortion law follows the death of Savita Halappanavar, an Indian woman who was admitted to a Galway hospital while miscarrying. She reportedly asked for an abortion and later died of a severe infection. Her death is still being investigated, but abortion advocates seized on her case to claim legal abortion would have saved her life and to push for changes to abortion laws.
The Irish Catholic bishops on Dec. 5 said that the direct and intentional killing of an unborn child “can never be morally justified.” They said changes to Irish law put at risk Irish medical practice that recognizes a “vital ethical distinction” between direct abortion and medical treatments for a pregnant woman that may put her life at risk.
“Abortion is gravely immoral in all circumstances, no matter how ‘limited’ access to abortion may be,” the bishops said.