The bishops described the report findings as flawed and criticised its failure to take all possible options into consideration.
The hierarchy, at a press conference in Maynooth, was giving its first official response to the report which sets out how the Government might respond to the judgment of the European Court of Human Right in A, B and C v Ireland.
Bishop Leo O’Reilly of Kilmore said though the expert group’s terms of reference “gave them wide scope”, they had not looked at all the options available or even at all the options that were suggested by the judgment of the European court.
Speaking alongside Catholic Primate, Cardinal Seán Brady and Bishop Kieran O’Reilly of Killaloe, Bishop Leo O’Reilly said the Strasbourg judgment did not oblige the Government to introduce legislation for abortion in Ireland.
The bishops say the ruling includes the option of a constitutional amendment to reverse the X case judgment, but that this wasn’t considered in the report.
He asked why Health Minister James Reilly had imposed this restriction on the expert group’s terms of reference, preventing them from looking at the option of a constitutional amendment to reverse the X Case ruling. The bishops favour enhanced medical guidelines within the current legislative framework as the best option.
“The medical guidelines that are there have been very effective. If it is necessary to improve those guidelines to make them more specific so that doctors have better guidance in the treatments that can give to save the lives of the mother and child — then by all means introduce those. We think that is probably the preferable solution,” Bishop O’Reilly said.
He said one of their major concerns was that the expert group failed to take on board the experience of other countries where the introduction of very limited abortion led inevitably to abortion on demand.
“Abortion is never a remedy for suicidal ideation,” he added.
Cardinal Brady said limited abortion never remained limited as the experience of other countries had shown.
The bishops called for a calm, rational, and informed debate to take place before any decision about the options, offered by the expert group report, were further considered. Cardinal Brady said this should take into consideration thefindings of the inquiry into the death of Savita Halappanavar.
“We’re concerned that the Government take time to consider this issue and would not rush into it, that they would give people and public representatives time to listen to their people.”