The Catholic Bishops of Ireland have said three of the four options proposed by the expert group on abortion "can never be morally justified."
In their statement on Wednesday, they said, "Of the four options presented by the report, three involve abortion – the direct and
intentional killing of an unborn child. This can never be morally justified."
They went on to say the judgement of the European Court of Human Rights does not oblige the Government to legislate for abortion.
The bishops queried why the expert group's report on the European Court for Human Rights judgement in A, B and C versus Ireland did not propose a referendum to ban abortion or reverse the X-case judgement.
They also called for "sufficient time for a calm, rational and informed debate to take place before any decision about the options offered by the Expert Group Report are taken.
Public representatives, they said,"must consider the profound moral questions that arise in responding to this report."
The bishops were attending their winter meeting in Maynooth. It concluded on Wednesday evening.
In their statement, which they describe as an initial response by the Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference to the expert group report, they said, "the judgement of the European Court of Human Rights permits options on this matter of fundamental moral, social and constitutional importance that are not offered by this report."
Included, they said, was the option of introducing a constitutional prohibition on abortion or another form of constitutional amendment to reverse the X-case ruling.
According to The Irish Times, the report provided "no ethical analysis of the options available, even though this is first and foremost a moral issue and consideration of the ethical dimension was included in the terms of reference," they said, adding, that it "takes no account of the risks involved in trying to legislate for so-called 'limited abortion' within the context of the X case judgement.
The X case judgement includes the threat of suicide as grounds for an abortion."
They continued, "international experience shows allowing abortion on the grounds of mental health effectively opens the floodgates for abortion".
They also noted that the report also identifies guidelines as an option.
It notes that guidelines can help to ensure consistency in the delivery of medical treatment.
"If guidelines can provide greater clarity as to when life-saving treatment may be provided to a pregnant mother or her unborn child within the existing legislative framework, and where the direct and intentional killing of either person continues to be excluded, then such ethically sound guidelines may offer a way forward."
They said current law and medical guidelines in Ireland allow nurses and doctors in Irish hospitals to apply this distinction.
"This has been an important factor in ensuring that Irish hospitals are among the safest and best in the world in terms of medical care for both a mother and her unborn baby during pregnancy. As a country this is something we should cherish, promote and protect."
On Wednesday, Minister for Health James Reilly reiterated the Coalition’s "firm commitment" to bring legal clarity to the issue of lawful abortion in Ireland, but said that would "not mean abortion on demand".
Five members of the Catholic hierarchy, joined thousands of anti-abortion protesters at a vigil outside the Dáil last night.
The protest was organised by Pro-Life Campaign, Youth Defence, the Life Institute, and Family and Life.
Following the death of Savita Halappanavar, the standing committee of the Irish Catholic Bishops Conference issued a statement last month saying the Church "has never taught that the life of a child in the womb should be preferred to that of a mother".
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