Catholic bishops have branded proposed changes to Ireland’s strict abortion regime as dramatic and morally unacceptable.
The church hierarchy said the deliberate decision to deprive a human being of life is always morally wrong.
“The heads of the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill 2013 published by the Government would, if approved, make the direct and intentional killing of unborn children lawful in Ireland,” the bishops said in a statement.
“The bill as outlined represents a dramatic and morally unacceptable change to Irish law and is unnecessary to ensure that women receive the life-saving treatment they need during pregnancy.”
The Bill was published late on Tuesday night after intense discussions between the coalition parties Fine Gael and Labour.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny held talks with his own parliamentary party on Wednesday amid concerns of a backbench revolt.
Fianna Fáil has not revealed whether it will tell its TDs to vote for or against the legislation despite the parliamentary party meeting for four-and-a-half hours on Thursday evening.
The proposals, if enacted, will legislate for the 1992 X case judgment from Ireland’s Supreme Court which found abortion is legal if there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother, including emergency medical cases, non-emergency medical cases and the threat of suicide.
The case was taken by a 14-year-old rape victim who became pregnant and was refused permission to travel for an abortion.
As well as that judgment, the loosening of rules is intended to meet requirements from a European court decision that found a woman in remission from cancer should not have been forced to travel overseas for an abortion.
Psychiatrists and an obstetrician will be involved in deciding if a woman is mentally unwell and should be allowed a termination. There will also be an appeal process for women.
The bishops said their statement was a preliminary response to hugely contentious reforms and they also raised concerns that an abortion could be carried out in a Catholic hospital.
“We encourage a deeper understanding of the inviolability of the right to life of both a mother and her unborn child, in all circumstances,” they said.
“Accordingly, at this crucial time, it is essential that all who share these beliefs make them clear to their legislators,” they said.
“The bill also appears to impose a duty on Catholic hospitals to provide abortions. This would be totally unacceptable and has serious implications for the existing legal and constitutional arrangements that respect the legitimate autonomy and religious ethos of faith-based institutions.
“It would also pose serious difficulties for the conscientious beliefs of many citizens.”
There is a clause in the Bill allowing for medical staff to have conscientious objection to carrying out an abortion.
“Abortion, in the sense of directly killing the unborn child, is never a remedy for suicidal ideation and therefore should never be cited as a justification for the direct killing of an innocent human being,” the bishops said.
“It is a tragic moment for Irish society when we regard the deliberate destruction of a completely innocent person as an acceptable response to the threat of the preventable death of another person.”