Eighth Amendment: Concerns expressed

18.1.2018 | Statements, Public Affairs

As members of the Oireachtas continue to meet today to discuss the Report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland, representatives of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland’s Council for Public Affairs have expressed their ‘grave concerns’ about the Report’s recommendations to legalise abortion on request until 12 weeks and after 12 weeks on health grounds.

Writing to members of the Irish Parliament, the Very Rev Drs Trevor Morrow and Norman Hamilton, said that in seeking a robust and informed debate, all in public leadership needed to be mindful of the “deep human pain and tragedies with which we are concerned when addressing this issue.” They also said that they believed the vast majority of Irish citizens “regarded every human life as having dignity, value and worth”, and this included both the mother and the unborn child.

“In affirming life, wellbeing and human dignity, it is important that we work together to ensure that the best possible care is provided to women, their children and families in times of crisis, including practical, emotional and spiritual support,” they wrote.

In this they welcomed the reference in the Report to perinatal hospice care – services designed to provide support to parents in cases of life-limiting illness while respecting the life of the unborn child.

In their letter, the two former Moderators also stated that, “The scientific evidence and logical conclusion that new human life exists from conception clearly implies that every society genuinely committed to fundamental human rights, especially the right to life, should take the moral and physical status of the unborn very seriously indeed. Our Church holds a strongly pro-life position, while recognising that there can be very exceptional circumstances when the termination of pregnancy may be necessary.”

With regards to recommendations that would legalise abortion on request until 12 weeks and after 12 weeks on health grounds, however, they expressed their ‘grave concerns.’ Noting that 97% of abortions in England and Wales in 2016 took place on health grounds, Drs Morrow and Hamilton wrote, “Even if the recommendation of abortion on request is excluded, the health proposals on their own will create similar provisions to those in Britain, which have, in practice, brought about abortion on request…”

They also expressed their concern that the recommendations effectively undermined assurances that Ireland would not introduce abortion for disability, saying that “the experience of other countries demonstrates that unborn children with Down’s syndrome or other conditions are aborted under health grounds.”

In conclusion the two ministers said, “It is clear that Irish society has come to value unborn human life in a way that it is not valued in other societies, demonstrating how the law plays an important role in shaping culture. In recent decades, practices of abortion have been introduced and legalised in the West which represent a tragic reversal of the process by which we have learned to value and protect those who Jesus described as the ‘least’ among us.

“We strongly urge you to work for an Ireland that follows a different, more truly progressive path, and is a place where the weak and vulnerable, including children in the womb, are cherished and protected.”

You can read the full text of the letter here.

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