A referendum to reverse the Supreme Court ruling allowing suicidal women to have abortions would give Irish people “the chance to re-establish what they wished for,” according to Catholic bishops.
the final day of Oireachtas hearings on the issue, representatives
from the Catholic Church denied accusations of misogyny as they came
under criticism for “pronouncing on the reproductive rights of women”.
Bishop of Elphin, Christopher Jones, said the Supreme Court took a
“morally unacceptable” position when it stated that abortion should be
allowed when there was a real and substantial risk to the life of a
mother, including suicide.
Any legislation based on the ruling
would be “unsound”, and the option of a referendum to reverse the
ruling should be “fully explored”, he said.
Ivana Bacik, said opposition to laws allowing for abortion in suicide
cases was “based on an underlying belief in the innate dishonesty of
women and a misogyny towards women.”
She asked if the Catholic
Church had any compassion for teenage girls who were pregnant as a
result of rape or incest, and were suicidal.
“Can you say what
business it is of a church whose members are entirely and exclusively
male and celibate to pronounce in such absolutist terms on such critical
issues on the reproductive rights and the reproductive health of women
Fr Timothy Bartlett, assistant to the president of
the Irish Bishop’s Council, said this was the first time in the
entire abortion debate that he has been “caricatured”. He said he has
many women who he loves dearly in his life and “no woman has ever called
me a misogynist”.
Senator Mary White said she found the
“extraordinary forthright” position of the Catholic representatives
“very difficult” when they had no idea what it was like to become
pregnant after being raped or abused. “If priests were allowed to marry
and you had a daughter, perhaps you might feel different if your
daughter was raped or abused,” she said.
Catherine Byrne TD
said she found some of the “disturbing language” in the submissions by
the Catholic bishops to be “offensive”.
They were one of many
faiths represented at the Committee on Health and Children, and took the
strongest stance against abortion of all religions.
Jones said there was a distinction between “intentional killing of the
unborn” and the current position where women can received all the
life-saving treatment they need.
He said any legislation in
line with the X case is “to go down the inevitable road to abortion” and
would mean the right of life to the mother and the unborn would no
longer be equal.
He said the Government had two options: To
adopt guidelines “which continue to exclude the direct and intentional
killing of the unborn” or to hold a referendum.
He said a vote
to reverse the X case ruling would allow people to “re-establish what
they wished for” in the 1983 referendum when 67% voted in favour of a
constitutional ban on abortion.
Cork North West TD, Michael
Creed (Fine Gael) asked the bishop if his “level of disdain for the
legislature” was such that they should not “trespass in this area at