Church of Ireland rejects easing of Irish abortion laws

The Church of Ireland’s two archbishops have said they cannot accept a govt proposal to allow unrestricted abortion during the first 12 weeks of a pregnancy.

The following statement is from The Most Revd Dr Richard Clarke, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, and The Most Revd Dr Michael Jackson, Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland:

The tradition of the Church of Ireland would reject an unrestricted access to abortion, while being concerned to ensure provision for hopefully rare circumstances and in a secure medical setting. Where individuals draw such a line will inevitably differ. 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. 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.

With respect to current proposals:

• We favour a modification of the Article 40.3.3 in such a way that allows for 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. 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. 

• We would suggest that current legislation should 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.

• We acknowledge that too often in this debate the voice of women has not been heard. The church will seek to continue to care for and pastorally stand alongside women, and their partners and families, who face immensely difficult situations and dilemmas.

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