The judgement given today by the European Court of Human Rights regarding the legal position on abortion in Ireland raises profound moral and legal issues which will require careful analysis and reflection. Today’s judgment leaves future policy in Ireland on protecting the lives of unborn children in the hands of the Irish people and does not oblige Ireland to introduce legislation authorising abortion.
The Irish Constitution clearly says that the right to life of the unborn child is equal to that of his or her mother. These are the fundamental human rights at stake. The Catholic Church teaches that neither the unborn child nor the mother may be deliberately killed.
The direct destruction of an innocent human life can never be justified, however difficult the circumstances. We are always obliged to act with respect for the inherent right to life of both the mother and the unborn child in the mother’s womb. No law which subordinates the rights of any human being to those of other human beings can be regarded as a just law.
At the beginning of Advent on 27 November last Pope Benedict spoke about the coming of Christ into our world in the womb of the Virgin Mary. The Holy Father reflected on the light that this sheds on the wonder of all human life. The embryo in the womb, he said, is not just a collection of cells but “a new living being, dynamic and marvellously ordered, a new individual of the human species. This is what Jesus was in Mary’s womb; this is what we all were in our mother’s womb.”
As a society we all have a responsibility to respond sensitively to any woman who finds herself dealing with an unplanned pregnancy. I urge anyone in this situation to contact CURA, the crisis pregnancy support service.