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Faith Matters

Abortion on demand 'not ethical'

Pictured left to right, minister for children and youth affairs Katherine Zappone, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and minister for health Simon Harris brief the media last month on the government's plans for a referendum on Ireland's abortion laws. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire

THE Church of Ireland's two most senior clerics have said that unrestricted access to abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy "is not an ethical position we can accept".

Archbishop of Armagh Dr Richard Clarke and Archbishop of Dublin Dr Michael Jackson, in a statement on the proposal to repeal the Eighth Amendment to the constitution, said that where abortions were carried out, the Church was also concerned "to ensure provision for hopefully rare circumstances and in a secure medical setting".

Just how rare, and in what precise circumstances, that would be was a matter in which people should make up their own mind: "Where individuals draw such a line will inevitably differ," they acknowledged.

"Instances where the life of the woman is at serious risk have long been regarded within Church of Ireland teaching as situations where termination of a pregnancy would be justifiable," they said.

"For some, pregnancy after sexual crime or the medical certainty of fatal foetal abnormality might also be seen as circumstances where abortion could be considered as justified.

"In every situation, however, the Church seeks to offer pastoral care sensitive to the physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing of women and families who find themselves in such difficult situations."

The archbishops said they favoured a change in the constitution which allowed the Oireachtas "to have legislative responsibility to address termination of pregnancy, any rights of the unborn and the rights of the pregnant woman within clearly defined boundaries and parameters".

"We recognise the dilemma faced both by legislators and by medical, nursing and healthcare practitioners with regards to access to unrestricted abortion during the early months of pregnancy," they said.

"However, unrestricted access to abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, or indeed at any stage, is not an ethical position we can accept."

They called for legislation to be strengthened "to ensure that the needs of pregnant women facing difficult situations can be addressed quickly and comprehensively through improved support services".

"This will require significant and sustained investment in both medical and mental health services."

Dr Michael Jackson, the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin

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