Priest challenges politicians on abortion stance

An Arranmore curate has told his congregation that any legislation on abortion should not be passed under the terms of the X case, saying he believed that would make Irish abortion laws the most liberal in Europe.

An Arranmore curate has told his congregation that any legislation on abortion should not be passed under the terms of the X case, saying he believed that would make Irish abortion laws the most liberal in Europe.

Speaking on the island on Sunday, Father John Joe Duffy told parishioners that he welcomed the decision of Donegal County Council, who voted at their regular meeting last month to oppose any form of legislation of abortion.

“I welcome the decision taken by Donegal County Council in relation to their stance on the abortion issue, in that they are not in favour of the Minister for Health, James Reilly legislating for abortion under the terms of the X case,” Father John Joe said.

However, the head of the Irish Family Planning Association said that even if legislation were brought in for the X case, Irish legislation would remain among the most restrictive in Europe.

Father John Joe called on all political representatives to state their position on the subject. “I now call on all political representatives at local and national level to clearly state where they stand in relation to the proposed legislation by Doctor James Reilly,” Father John Joe said. “It is time to get off the fence. I am calling, in particular, on Sinn Féin locally and nationally to clearly state where they stand, in the same manner that I am calling on all political parties to clearly state where they stand. It is now time for political parties to show moral courage and protect the rights of the unborn child.”

He added that this was going to be a very difficult debate, and urged everyone to be sensitive to the language they use.

“Abortion is wrong under any circumstances and no matter how you may try to dress it up linguistically, it is what it is,” he said. “But we must be exceptionally sensitive in our use of language in relation to the future debate which will be on abortion.”

He added that he believed any legislation adopted in terms of the X case would make Irish abortion laws the most liberal in Europe. “The only way that the abortion debate can be revisited is by a referendum where the choice will be put to all the Irish people and that all Irish people will have their say on this matter,” Father John Joe said. “Legislation is not the way forward on this issue and it would be wrong for any government to forward this matter by legislation alone.”

The Chief Executive of the Irish Family Planning Association, Niall Behan, disagreed. He said: “If the legislation was brought in for the X case, we would still remain the one of the most restrictive in Europe. If you were to take the 48 members of the Council of Europe, from Russia to the Ukraine to Iceland, we would still be the 45th most restrictive of the 48 countries.”

He added that should legislation be brought in relation to the X-case it would be a woman’s life that would be under discussion and not her health.

Women in Ireland with a pregnancy deemed life-threatening cannot access abortion services without travelling abroad, despite a 2010 European Court of Human Rights ruling which found the State to be in breach of its obligations, according to the Irish Family Planning Association. Answering a Parliamentary written question, Minister Reilly confirmed that the situation of women with life-threatening pregnancies remains the same as before the ruling. No interim measures to deal with such incidents have been developed since the judgement.