The Catholic Church has suggested a referendum be held to overturn the Supreme Court's X case judgment on abortion.

Representing Irish bishops, Bishop of Elphin Christopher Jones told the Oireachtas Health Committee that terminating a pregnancy was never morally permissible.

The senior cleric said: “The Catholic church has never taught that the life of a child in the womb should be preferred to that of the mother, or the life of the mother to that of the child.”

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“This coincides with our belief in the church, based on human reason, and affirmed by sacred scripture, that the life of a mother and her unborn baby are both sacred,” he said.

Speaking in the final day of hearings, Bishop Jones said other options were available to the government that did not involve legislating for abortion.

"These include the option of appropriate guidelines, which continue to exclude the direct and intentional killing of the unborn, or a referendum to overturn the X case judgement," he added.

"We believe both these options should be fully explored by the Oireachtas."

In the wake of the death of 31-year-old Savita Halappanavar, who died after she was refused an abortion in a Galway hospital, a parliamentary committee is taking evidence ahead of plans to legislate for abortion in Ireland.

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