Thousands of Irish pro-life demonstrators packed the street outside of the Dáil Eireann in Dublin for a Vigil for Life on Dec. 4, calling on the legislature not to pass any laws that would allow abortion.
“We need to ensure that both our mothers and babies are best protected by banning abortion,” said Niamh Ui Bhrian of the Ireland pro-life group Life Institute.
Attendees at the candlelight vigil included adults, children, college students, clergy and church groups, who asked the government to protect both mothers and their unborn babies.
Some carried signs asking Ireland's Prime Minister Enda Kenny to “keep his pro-life promise” which the Fine Gael party leader made in the 2011 election.
The Irish government is debating an expert group's 58-page report on abortion that advocates abortion legislation and abortion regulation, the Irish newspaper The Independent reports.
The report is a response to a 2010 decision from the European Court of Human Rights that ruled that Ireland’s abortion laws do not protect the pregnant mother’s constitutional right to life, which the Irish Supreme Court established in 1992.
Lawyer Caroline Simons, a member of the vigil organizer Pro Life Campaign, told vigil attendees there is “no going back” once the government implements legislation.
“Any reassurances that you're going to be given over the next two months that abortion won't be introduced and they're going to talk about medical intervention on limited grounds is false,” she said.
Ui Bhrian said such legislation would make Ireland follow the British approach to abortion, a system “anathema” to most Irish people.
Several Catholic bishops attended the rally, including Archbishop Michael Neary of Tuam.
The Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference responded to the expert report on abortion laws in a Dec. 4 statement.
They said abortion is “the direct and intentional destruction of an unborn baby” and is “gravely immoral in all circumstances.”
The statement distinguished abortion from medical treatments which do not seek to kill the unborn baby, but may put the baby’s life at risk. It also said Irish law and medical guidelines presently allow nurses and doctors to make this “vital” distinction.
While the Irish government has considered changes to abortion law since January, controversy erupted after the Oct. 28 death of Savita Halappanavar in a Galway hospital. She died of an infection follwing a miscarriage after reportedly asked for an abortion.
The journalist who broke the news about Halappanavar's death has admitted that the first reported version of the story may be based on faulty recollection on the part of the woman's husband.
Kitty Holland's Nov. 14 story for The Irish Times suggested that Savita Halappanavar died because elective abortion is illegal in the Republic of Ireland. It was headlined “Woman 'denied a termination' dies in hospital.”
Halappanavar's autopsy has revealed that she died of blood poisoning and E. coli ESBL, an antibiotic-resistant strain of the bacterium.
Although an investigation into the case is ongoing, pro-abortion rights advocates have contended that an abortion would have saved her life.
Uí Bhriain said the vigil “remembered Savita and her baby, and we mourned the loss of their lives.”
However, she said vigil participants ask that “the media and the political establishment now look at the cynical exploitation of this tragic death of a young mother, and seek to find the facts.”