The abortion controversy has reignited after Catholic bishops accused the Government of opening the floodgates to the “intentional killing of the unborn”.
The hierarchy issued a hard-hitting statement after the Coalition confirmed that it will introduce legislation and regulation before summer to deal with abortion – with suicide to be included as a ground for termination.
But just hours after the decision was announced, the rift between the Government and the Catholic hierarchy was visibly widening.
The archbishops said it would “pave the way for the direct and intentional killing of unborn children”.
The four leading churchmen in the country swiftly issued a strongly worded statement condemning the Coalition move.
Cardinal Sean Brady along with Archbishops Diarmuid Martin, Dermot Clifford and Michael Neary signed off on the co-ordinated attack on the government proposal.
Emphasising that the right to life is the most fundamental right, the archbishops said that the lives of the unborn depend on the choices that will be made by public representatives.
“The unavoidable choice that now faces all our public representatives is: will I choose to defend and vindicate the equal right to life of a mother and the child in her womb in all circumstances, or will I choose to licence the direct and intentional killing of the innocent baby in the womb?” they said.
Several Fine Gael ministers and TDs are concerned about the move to legislate, but are holding fire until they see the actual wording of the law.
They will be pushing for an extremely tight and limited regime.
However, party backbencher Peter Mathews was threatening last night to vote against the Government if he was not satisfied with its contents.
And heaping further pressure TDs, the archbishops appealed to their moral conscience.
They said the legislation would fundamentally change “the careful balance between the equal right to life of a mother and her unborn child in current law and medical practice in Ireland”.
The government decision is based on the recommendations of an expert group, which came up with a range of options, but pointed toward regulations backed up by legislation.
It was compiled to set out options on how to respond to a European Court of Human Rights ruling on the so-called ABC case, which found the State violated the rights of a woman in remission from cancer who was forced to travel abroad to terminate her pregnancy.
In its formal announcement, the Government indicated the regulation and legislation will include the threat of suicide being grounds for abortion.
Catholic campaign group the Iona Institute argued it would be both wrong and unnecessary to allow abortion to prevent suicide.
A collection of pro-choice groups welcomed the government’s decision, but warned politicians must stop dragging their feet.
– Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor