\"Pro-Choice

Pro-Choice demonstrators call for new legislation in the wake of Savita Halappanavar's death Photo by: AFP/ Peter Muhly

When the Catholic Church does not know best - Ireland’s abortion law reform

\"Pro-Choice

Pro-Choice demonstrators call for new legislation in the wake of Savita Halappanavar's death Photo by: AFP/ Peter Muhly

The abortion bill being proposed by the Irish government is the best that can be achieved on this incredibly difficult issue.

There are objections on several levels, mainly that it does not cover abortion in the case of rape or incest, leaving the deeply distressed women in these situations to take the path to Britain as thousands of Irish do for a legal abortion.

The response of the Catholic Church, making noises about excommunication for politicians who support the new bill, is beyond disgraceful.

They are perfectly entitled to criticize the bill on its merits, but to threaten excommunication for those who are in favor of it is a step too far.

This, remember, is the institution that disgraced itself with the pedophilia crimes of so many of its priests.

The man making the comments about excommunication is Cardinal Sean Brady, who should have stepped down once it was reported that as a church inquisitor he had forced two young boys to cover up abuse by Father Brendan Smyth, the worst rapist of all, who went on to injure and abuse hundreds of other innocent children.

Brady is lucky that he and scores of other priests are not the ones excommunicated for failing in their duty to protect the most innocent in Irish society.

Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny made a remarkable response to the church’s criticism, saying the Constitution, not the Bible, was the law of the land in Ireland.

It was a brave statement by a politician handed a poison chalice, the Supreme Court verdict of 1992 in the X case that Ireland had to legislate for abortion in certain circumstances following the suicidal plea of a 14-year-old girl woman raped by a neighbor who was turned down for the right to travel for an abortion in Britain.

It is these all too human cases that the anti-abortion forces always ignore.

Like everything else there are many shades of grey in cases of rape, incest and abuse that they do not want to consider.

The latest was highlighted by the death of Savita Halappanavar, a young Indian woman living in Ireland who was forced to keep a non-viable fetus, suffered sepsis and died as a result.

Her doctor, fearful of transgressing an 1861 abortion law, refused Savita the abortion until it was too late. The fact was that the fetus at 19 weeks could not possibly have survived anyway.

There are no absolutes on these issues, only human beings muddling through as best they can.

What Kenny has done is put forward a narrow bill aimed at satisfying the legal framework put forward by the Irish Supreme Court in answer to the X case.

Members of his own party, many of them conservative, have many questions, but those can be sorted out in parliamentary debate and inquiry.

The bill does not come anywhere near Ireland offering abortion on demand.  And the fact remains that Irish women will continue to travel to Britain for abortions.

What is clear is that Ireland has long ignored the problem, and in typical fashion in the Savita case it came back to haunt the country.

Kenny is doing his best on a very difficult topic. It behooves the “bishops know best” crowd to look at the human issues involved and not listen to some edict handed down form those who have betrayed the sacred trust so many placed in them.

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