BOTH Anglican Archbishops in the Church of Ireland stated their opposition to unlimited abortion within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, in an interview at the General Synod.
The Archbishop of Armagh, Dr Richard Clarke, and the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Michael Jackson, speaking on RTÉ radio at the General Synod, expressed concerns over the government’s plan to legislate for the measure if the 8th Amendment to the Constitution, enacted by referendum in 1983, is repealed by another referendum later this month (News, 6 and 20 April). “The Eighth”, as it is known, declared equal rights for the mother and the unborn foetus.
While the Church of Ireland has held that abortion is permissible only in circumstances of strict and undeniable medical necessity, there is now an acceptance that, in cases of rape and fatal foetal abnormality, a termination may be permissible. “Abortion on demand” in the first 12 weeks would be ethically unsustainable, Dr Clarke said.
He said that there were major differences in society between 1983 and the current situation, and expressed concern that the present referendum and the government’s proposed legislation had become seen as one.
The Bishop of Cashel, the Rt Revd Michael Burrows, and the Bishop of Limerick & Killaloe, the Rt Revd Kenneth Kearon, have come out publicly in support of the referendum proposal: five others — including bishops whose dioceses straddle both sides of the border — oppose it.