Ireland has been known for being a very pro-life nation, which outlaws abortion in all cases. However, there is increasing pressure to review the current law. A European Court of Human Rights panel will release a report in September that may recommend that Ireland’s government allow abortion in the case of risk to a mother’s life. It comes in response to a 2010 ruling the court made, saying women with cancer had their rights violated since they would have to seek an abortion outside the country. According to its 2011 Census, 84% of Ireland is Catholic, which can help explain the country being pro-life.
Liam Gibson, Northern Ireland spokesperson for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, expressed his concerns on a phone interview. “The decline in interest in religion in Ireland has serious implications for the pro-life movement in the country. It is not simply the loss of faith in Irish society which will affect the pro-life message but the change in the culture’s view of human life which will be decisive.”
Kathleen Lynch, minister of state at The Department of Health, thinks that the government has no choice but to allow changes in legislation in order to maintain membership with the European Union.
Despite this, many members of the Fine Gael Party promised to not vote for any change in abortion law, even if the European court recommends so. For the Labour Party, only 37 of the 166 seats favor bringing a change to the law. So regardless of the pending report by the court, the government seems committed to upholding the current law.
Plus, a top Irish oncologist, Dr. John Crown, says an abortion is not necessary to save the life of a mother who has cancer. Having spoken in 40 countries and authored over 150 research papers, Crown says, “I don’t think I ever had a case where abortion was necessary to save mom.”
A study also came out saying chemotherapy would be safe for mothers with cancer without harming the child. With 400 women studied in Europe with early-stage cancer while pregnant, 197 of them had chemotherapy, and their babies had no higher risk of birth defects or anything else.
Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin, reiterated Catholic Church teaching regarding the controversy. “The respect for human life from the moment of conception again is a fundamental part of Catholic teaching.”
Cardinal Sean Brady, the head of the Catholic Church of Ireland, said that legalizing abortion will be “vigorously and comprehensively opposed.” He adds that Catholics need to “have the courage to make our voices heard.”
However, on the other side, Mara Clarke, founder of Abortion Support Network, spoke in favor of revising the current law. “When you make abortion against the law, it does not stop or decrease abortion.” Clarke also mentions that the ban is “inconvenient for women and couples that have financial resources and it makes the situation desperate for women and couples who don’t. Whether or not life begins at conception, the decision is made because they cannot provide the right life — it is the morally responsible thing to do.”
Plus, a recent study released by the Association of Catholic Priests showed that traditional beliefs are not being held by a majority of people. It shows that many of them don’t attend weekly Mass and dissent from Catholic teaching on serious issues. This can be very alarming, considering that Ireland is a Catholic nation and its current law regarding abortion is on the line.
There will be a lot of negotiating about Ireland’s law in the following weeks, and hopefully it can maintain its current status as a completely pro-life nation.