The Catholic Church has suggested a referendum be held to overturn the X case Supreme Court judgment allowing for abortion.
Bishop of Elphin Christopher Jones told a parliamentary hearing on
plans to legislate for the case two decades on that terminating a
pregnancy was never morally permissible.
The senior cleric, representing Irish bishops, said high standards of
maternity care in Ireland are influenced by a mother and unborn child's
equal right to life under the constitution.
"This coincides with our belief in the church, based on human reason,
and affirmed by sacred scripture, that the life of a mother and her
unborn baby are both sacred," he said.
"The Catholic church has never taught that the life of a child in the
womb should be preferred to that of the mother, or the life of the
mother to that of the child."
Bishop Jones said there is a vital moral distinction between medical
intervention to save a mother during pregnancy complications, without
intentionally seeking to end the life of an unborn child, and abortion.
It was "ethically sound" to try to save both lives, he told the hearing.
Bishop Jones said legislating for the X case was not necessary to
ensure women in Ireland receive all the life-saving treatment they need
during pregnancy. There are other options available to the Government,
including appropriate guidelines or a referendum to overcome the X case
judgment, he said.
Bishop Jones added: "We believe both of these options should be fully explored by the Oireachtas."
In cases where a mother was suicidal, he said the possible and
preventable death of one person cannot be morally equated with the
deliberate destruction of the life of a different and innocent person.
Appropriate care should be the priority for mothers who were suicidal,
Bishop Jones was addressing the last of three days of hearings by the
Joint Committee on Health and Children, held in the Seanad chamber. The
committee is taking evidence ahead of plans to legislate for the X
case, in which the Supreme Court allowed for a suicidal pregnant
teenager to have an abortion 20 years ago.