ANGLICANS in the Republic of Ireland have been urged by both the Archbishops of both Armagh and Dublin to “think carefully and with prayer” on the issues arising from the government’s decision to hold a referendum on abortion, on 25 May.
The new proposals would allow unrestricted abortion for women who are up to 12 weeks pregnant.
In a statement, Dr Richard Clarke, the Archbishop of Armagh, and Dr Michael Jackson, the Archbishop of Dublin, said that the proposed change to the Republic of Ireland’s abortion law was “not an ethical position we can accept”. The government’s proposals went too far in legalising unrestricted access to abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Voters, the Archbishops said, faced a “stark decision. There is, for Christians, a very clear witness in the scriptures that all human life, including before physical birth, has a sacred dignity in the eyes of God.”
If the proposals succeed, they will overturn the 1983 referendum which, in the 8th Amendment, enshrined in the Constitution a prohibition on abortion in all circumstances except when the life of the mother is endangered.
The current Constitution regards equally the life of the unborn child and that of the mother. In a landmark decision last month, however, a seven-judge sitting of the Supreme Court disagreed. A recent poll has indicated that 56 per cent of voters favour a change
The Union of Students in Ireland want the referendum to take place before young voters begin sitting exams. It is expected that the votes of younger people will have a significant impact on the outcome, as they did in the referendum on gay marriage.
The Roman Catholic Church has reiterated its opposition to abortion in all circumstances. The Primate of All Ireland, Dr Eamon Martin, said: “Catholic teaching is clear: where a seriously ill pregnant woman requires medical treatment which may put the life of her baby at risk, such treatments are ethically permissible provided every effort is made to save both the mother and her baby.
“Such an intervention would be different from an abortion, which is the direct and intentional taking of the innocent life of the unborn.”
The Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, acknowledged that thousands of women have been travelling abroad for terminations annually or obtaining termination pills without medical supervision or counselling support.
“So, we already have abortion in Ireland, but it is unsafe, unregulated, and unlawful,” he said.
The Health Minister, Simon Harris, has said that abortions after 12 weeks would be permitted only where the woman’s health or life was seriously at risk.