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Irish Bishops support referendum against abortion

The Catholic Bishops in Ireland have given their support to a referendum that they say will sanction the right to life.

Their support came in a statement published on Wednesday at the end of the winter meeting of the bishops' conference held here.

The government has announced plans for a national referendum on a constitutional amendment that would ban abortion except in cases when the woman would die by carrying her pregnancy to term.

The abortion debate galvanised the Irish public in 1992, when the attorney general secured an injunction to prevent a 14-year-old rape victim from travelling to England for an abortion. The Supreme Court overruled the injunction because the girl had threatened to commit suicide.

The bishops recognise that the present legislation allows the risk of suicide to be a reason for abortion, making the law highly relative. In this connection, they welcome the proposal promoted by the referendum, which will restrict it.

In the past, some groups have been opposed to the proposed referendum, saying it would not totally outlaw abortion.

"We understand the reluctance of many who are opposed to abortion to vote for a measure which does not seem to vindicate the right to life of the unborn from the moment of conception," the bishops explain.

"However, it is our conviction that the new proposal represents a considerable improvement on the existing situation, and that it does not in itself deny or devalue the worth and dignity of the human embryo prior to implantation," they continue.

Irish Bishops' Statement on Abortion Referendum