The chairwoman of the Oireachtas abortion committee has hit out at the Bishop of Waterford and Lismore for his “utterly untrue” comments on abortion.
Speaking about women who have been raped, Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan said “an abortion is not the answer” to suicidal ideation.
The bishop also said that contraception is morally wrong and “without doubt” has promoted promiscuity in Ireland, and that, for women to be respected by men, they should “not be totally available to [them] at all times”.
The bishop said a previous Oireachtas committee had heard from the “best psychologists in Ireland” who claimed that “a solution for a lady, a mother with suicidal ideation, the solution is not an abortion, it in fact can increase her changes of mental distress, in rape cases”.
However, senator Catherine Noone, who chaired the Oireachtas committee, said: “There is no doubt in my mind that what he is saying is utterly untrue.”
She said the possibility that an abortion would increase the detrimental impact on a women’s mental health had been raised at the committee but was “dismissed categorically” by experts in the field.
“We would categorically say the opposite,,” said Ms Noone. “The evidence that we heard would suggest that there is no link there, it does not increase the chances of suicidal ideation.”
Speaking on WLR FM radio, the bishop said the issue of abortion was a “very emotional topic” but ultimately it was the “domination of the strong over the weak” and someone must stand up for the rights of the unborn.
“If we start making decisions about who should live and who should not live then we are opening up something, like where do we stop?” he said.
“Are we going to intentionally take a human life?
“The central thing is is a medic going to intentionally take a human life?
“I think studies show that in actual fact a pregnant mother has very strong maternal instincts.”
Asked if this was the case for women who had become pregnant through rape he said: “I don’t have the figures here now but I would be glad to get them.”
The bishop added that contraception is very much a related issue, and said: “I could ask the question does it make human life better, does it really?
“What way are women looked on by men?
“There are women discovering the beauty of their fertility and to be fully respected by the man and not to be totally available to him at all times.”
Separately, Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty has said that while her view differed from that of Tánaiste Simon Coveney, who this week said he could not support unrestricted access to abortion up to the 12th week of pregnancy, that does not make Mr Coveney’s opinion wrong.
“What’s important for me is that the Cabinet was unanimous in our decision that, regardless of your views and where you are on the spectrum, we can do nothing without a repeal of the Eighth so we were unanimous in putting that question to the people,” said Ms Doherty.
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