Irish leader Enda Kenny has rejected claims made by the Archbishop of Dublin that the proposed new abortion bill for Ireland will give less rights to an unborn child especially in cases where terminations are allowed because of suicide fears for the mother.

Writing in The Irish Times Archbishop Diarmuid Martin expressed concern about the inclusion of the risk of suicide where the foetus is viable.

In his letter to the newspaper he said his worry related to situations where the unborn child is viable at the time a termination is being considered.

Dr Martin said "his anxiety" is that "it would be permissible for medical specialists to certify that the medical procedure necessary to avert the risk to the mother's life consists of a termination of her pregnancy at a stage when, if a different method of terminating the pregnancy were used, the child would be delivered alive."

He said the only medical treatment in line with the Constitutional protection of such an unborn child would be one in which the child was safely delivered.

The Archbishop also mentioned the “X-Case,” which was taken by a 14-year-old rape victim who became pregnant and was refused permission to travel for an abortion.

He said, "There is a growing impression that the judgment of the X-Case “is the Constitution.” I believe that it is an interpretation given in a specific case which does not supersede or relativise the clear constitutional right to equal protection for unborn life in the circumstances which I have outlined. Indeed under Head 4 it would give the life of such an unborn child less protection than is guaranteed in liberal abortion laws in other countries.”

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny responded to his remarks at an event in Dublin on Thursday afternoon.

“The bill that we proposed here obviously doesn’t change the legislation on abortion,” the Taoiseach said.

“This is about saving lives and clearly fundamental to any assessment of any person with difficulty in pregnancy is the requirement to do everything that’s possible, practicable in the sense of saving the life of the unborn as well as that of the mother.”

“It’s about saving lives, giving clarity to the protection of the life of the mother and the requirement to do everything that is possible and practicable in the sense of saving the life of the unborn child as well,” Kenny said.

Special health committee hearings will take place on Friday, Monday and Tuesday, as politicians seek advice from medical and legal experts on the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013.

Irish Prime Minister Enda KennyAP