Irish bishops have told the Citizens’ Assembly that repealing the eighth amendment would “radically change the principle, for all unborn children and indeed for all of us, that the right to life is a fundamental human right”.
In a submission to the assembly, the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference said unborn babies with life- limiting conditions are frequently spoken of as if they were “as good as dead”.
While they said it is “very distressing” for a mother to discover that her baby is seriously ill and, in all probability will not live, “the use of words like ‘fatal’ or ‘lethal’ to describe these conditions implies that there is something definite about the outcome and that death is imminent and inevitable”.
The bishops claimed: “The reality is that every case is different and that, while some babies will die before birth, and some will live for just a few hours, others will live for significantly longer.”
In relation to babies conceived in rape, the bishops said that while the mother “needs compassionate care and support”, the child is also a person.
“He or she has rights, including that most fundamental of all rights — the right to life,” said the bishops. “Society must similarly extend its support to the unborn baby.
“Some people respond to crisis pregnancy by proposing abortion as a solution. It may even seem like the compassionate thing to do. But these children are innocent and they are entitled to the best support and care that we can provide.”
The bishops said the assembly should be guided by what they called “the reality of what happens in the life of each human being, between conception and birth”.
“There is no logical or scientific basis for considering, on the one hand, a born child to be a person with all the rights that this involves and, on the other hand, an unborn child to be a non- person,” said the senior clerics. “The distinct identity of a human individual is already present once fertilisation has taken place.”
They said that, where a seriously ill pregnant woman needed care which may put the baby’s life at risk, such treatments were always ethically permissible, “provided every effort has been made to save the life of both the mother and her baby”.
They said: “Abortion, by contrast, is the direct and intentional destruction of an unborn baby and is gravely immoral in all circumstances. It is not a medical treatment.”
Recently, Labour leader Brendan Howlin said that while bishops had a right to express their opinion on the issue of abortion, their view was only equal to that of any other citizen in the country.
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