The Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference in Maynooth today issued a statement calling for the status quo on Ireland’s abortion laws be upheld, and that the X Case judgement and two referenda be ignored.

Here are my thoughts on that statement.

A time to uphold the right to life: Statement by the Catholic Bishops of Ireland

On the second day of the June General Meeting of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference in Maynooth, the following statement has been issued:

A time to reflect

On Saturday last, tens of thousands of women, men and children gathered in Dublin to express their support for the equal right to life of mothers and their unborn children.

Irrelevant, if you’re going to ignore the other rallies and protests. Tens of thousands of people also gathered in Dublin against this status quo, to demand abortion rights for women.

We are at a defining moment for our country.

The Gospel of life is at the heart of the message of Jesus.  He came that we may have life and have it to the full (Jn 10:10).  The Gospel challenges us to work for a world in which the dignity and beauty of every human life are respected.

Not everyone in Ireland is a Catholic, let alone a Christian. I can’t speak for everyone, but the Gospel means nothing to me. However, I don’t think almost two millenia-old writings should be used to govern real life now, in the present.

A time to uphold the right to life

The right to life is the most fundamental of all rights; it is the foundation of all other rights.  No individual has the right to destroy life and no State has the right to undermine the right to life.

The right to have your life protected where it is at all possible is the fundamental right. This is the case now in the Irish Constitution, and will still be the case when X is legislated for.

Yet the Irish Government is proposing abortion legislation that will fundamentally change the culture of medical practice in Ireland.  For the first time legislation will be enacted permitting the deliberate and intentional killing of an unborn child. This represents a radical change. Every citizen, not just people of faith, should be deeply concerned.

It will not change the culture of medical practice, as this practice is already allowed, and already takes place in Ireland. The only problem is that Constitutional law is not reflected in legislation.

The phrase “killing of an unborn child” is an appeal to emotion, and is not a very good argument when you try to make a case, usually because it’s not based on fact.

For example, below is a photo of a zygote. Is it a child?

We value the skill and efforts of our doctors, nurses and other care professionals who have helped to earn Ireland’s place as one of the safest countries in the world for mothers and their babies during pregnancy.

Ireland is, indeed, quite a safe place to be pregnant, but that does not change the fact that the lack of clarity in the law means that in some – hopefully rare – cases, a woman’s life can be very much in danger.

Catholic Church teaching is clear: where a seriously ill pregnant woman needs 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.

Again, not everyone is a Catholic. But still, that is also what the Constitution and the Irish Medical Organisation Guidelines try to achieve. The only thing that is lagging behind is the legislation, the legislation that will protect the woman’s life ahead of that of the embryo/foetus in the case that her life is in danger because of that pregnancy. Because, after all, if the woman dies, so does the unborn. Is it not better to save one life rather than let two die?

This is different from abortion, which is the direct and intentional taking of the innocent life of the unborn.  No matter what legislation is passed in any country, abortion is, and always will be, gravely wrong.

No, it’s not. It’s the same. Elective abortion and therapeutic abortion are still both abortion. You cannot pretend that it’s not abortion just because it doesn’t suit you.

A time for clarity and truth

The Government is under no obligation to legislate for the X case.  People are being misled. We challenge repeated statements that this legislation is about saving lives and involves no change to the law or practice on abortion.  Legalising the direct and intentional destruction of the life of an unborn baby can never be described as ‘life-saving’ or ‘pro-life’.

It is about saving lives, unless of course the Catholic Bishops don’t count a pregnant woman as a life?

Contrary to clear psychiatric evidence, this legislation proposes abortion as an appropriate response to women with suicidal feelings during pregnancy.

Strawman. Nobody ever said it was a treatment for suicidal ideation. It is, however, a major part of the whole treatment process if the pregnancy itself is causing distress.

It is even possible to envisage as a result of this legislation the deliberate destruction of a child, who could otherwise be saved, right up to and including the moment of birth.

No, it’s not. And anyone who says that this legislation will allow abortion up to birth is either deliberately ignoring their precious Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution, or deliberately misrepresenting the facts. I’ve written about this before.

Furthermore, we challenge assurances that the proposed legislation will provide limited access to abortion.  As published to date, the legislation will allow for a very wide margin of subjective professional assessment by which the deliberate destruction of an unborn baby can be legally justified. As we have learned from other countries, such legislation opens the door to ever wider availability of abortion.

There we go again with the appeal to emotion: “destruction of an unborn baby”. This paragraph also uses the “floodgates” fallacy. Remember, this unfounded argument was also used by opponents of divorce and contraception. Of course, everyone is today lining up with big bags of condoms outside divorce courts, right?

We remain convinced that enhanced medical guidelines, which do not envisage the direct and intentional killing of the unborn, could provide the necessary clarity as well as a morally, legally and medically acceptable way forward.  While good health can normally be restored, life, once taken, can never, never be restored.

The proposed legislation is basically a legal version of the current guidelines. We cannot enhance the guidelines any further without legislation. The guidelines allow for abortion in line with the Constitution and the X Case judgement, but legally it’s unclear when this can actually happen. This is why we must legislate.

A time for freedom of conscience

Freedom of conscience is a fundamental human right.  A State that truly cherishes freedom will respect the conscience of its citizens, including its public representatives, on such an important human value as the right to life.

Absolutely. And the majority of people in Ireland want the X Case to be legislated for. Somehow I think the Catholic Bishops will only agree with “freedom of conscience” if it happens to suit them.

It is ethically unacceptable to expect doctors, nurses and others who have conscientious objections to nominate others to take their place.  Neither should any institution with a pro-life ethos be forced to provide abortion services.

Is it ethical to deny a woman a life-saving abortion if the only hospital she can access decides to opt-out? Allowing hospitals to object to abortion can potentially kill a pregnant woman, and puts us right back at square one.

A time to decide: a time to act; a time to pray

We call on citizens to exercise their right to make their views known respectfully to our public representatives and to leave them in no doubt about where they stand on this issue.

See above. Over 70% want legislation. See also the referenda of 1992 and 2002, where the majority voted in favour of allowing the threat to life from suicide to be justification for acquiring an abortion.

We ask our public representatives to uphold the equal and inviolable right to life of all human beings, even if this means standing above other pressures and party loyalties.

A-ha. Human beings. That’s different to human life. This is the personhood question. A trout is a life. But is it a person? No, it’s not.

Whether it’s a misunderstanding of the difference between life and personhood or a deliberate attempt to muddy the waters even more, this statement from the Catholic Bishops is demanding that the zygote imaged above be treated equal to a fully-grown, adult woman, and that even if that zygote is posing a danger to the woman’s life, it must never be removed from her body.

That’s the “equality” the Catholic Bishops are demanding.

We also invite our priests and people to continue to pray the Choose Life prayer at Mass and in the home that the dignity and value of all human life will continue to be upheld in this country.

Some mothers today are facing difficult or crisis pregnancies. Other people who have had, or who have assisted with abortions, may be re-living what happened in the past.  They deserve to receive all the love, support and professional care that they need.

Yes, they do deserve all the professional care they need. Legislation will allow for that.

It’s extremely unfair to suggest that because some women regret their abortions (“may be reliving what happened in the past”), all women must be denied an abortion. The fact is, the majority of women who have had an abortion do not deny it, and felt it was the right choice for them.

As Bishops we will join this weekend in prayerful solidarity with millions of Catholics all over the world in the Year of Faith celebration of Blessed John Paul II’s Encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life).

Every human life is precious, every human life is beautiful, every human life is sacred. Choose life!

Yes, every human life is precious, beautiful, and sacred. Unless, it seems, that life belongs to a woman.