Irish Catholic Bishops: ‘Don’t force conscientious objectors to participate in abortion’

Archbishop Eamon Martin, Primate of All Ireland
Archbishop Eamon Martin, Primate of All Ireland

Irish Catholic Bishops have stressed the importance of allowing “all healthcare professionals and pharmacists” to hold conscientious objections to abortion.

In a statement issued following their Winter General Meeting in Maynooth, the Bishops expressed dismay that “for the most part, the voices of those who voted against abortion in May’s referendum have been ignored.”

In May, the Republic of Ireland voted by referendum to remove an amendment inserted into its constitution in the 1980s to prohibit abortion.

The repeal of the Eighth Amendment, backed by 66.4% of voters, allows legal provision to be made for abortion in the Republic of Ireland.

The Irish health minister Simon Harris said in November that women from Northern Ireland, where abortion remains prohibited except in a few specific circumstances, would be allowed to access abortion services in the Republic.

In its statement, issued earlier today, the Irish Catholic Bishops said: “We are dismayed that, for the most part, the voices of those who voted against abortion in May’s referendum have been ignored. Even what many people would have deemed to have be very reasonable legislative amendments seeking to provide women with information and to prohibit abortion on the grounds of sex, race or disability, have been rejected.

“As we stated after our Autumn Meeting, Irish society must have respect for the right of conscientious objection for all healthcare professionals and pharmacists. They cannot be forced either to participate in abortion or to refer patients to others for abortion.

“Every one of us has a right to life. It is not given to us by the Constitution of Ireland or by any law. We have it ‘as of right’, whether we are wealthy or poor, healthy or sick. All human beings have it. The direct and intentional taking of human life at any stage is gravely wrong and can never be justified.”

The statement continues: “Women’s lives, and the lives of their unborn children, are precious, valued and always deserving of protection. Any law which suggests otherwise would have no moral force. In good conscience it cannot be supported and would have to be resisted.

“We offer our prayerful solidarity with everyone dedicated to the sanctity and protection of human life at all stages. We ask everyone of goodwill - whether at home, in parish, in school or at work - to continue to choose and to celebrate the preciousness of life.”

During their winter general meeting, a delegation of bishops met with individuals representing various pro-life groups from both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

The aim of the gathering was to “acknowledge their on-going commitment to upholding the dignity of unborn human life and to consult on the setting up of a new Council for Life under the aegis of the Bishops’ Conference which will operate from March 2019.”