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Every member of the family must be treated with the greatest respect. This is true at every moment of life from conception to its natural death. That vision reflects the prophet Jeremiah, 'Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you'. When we say that human life is sacred, we are saying something that is not only accepted by religious people but by everyone who appreciates the wonder of life.
The Right to Life is the most fundamental of all rights. It is a human right that derives from the nature of human beings. The child in the womb enjoys the same rights as all other people, among which is the unassailable right of the unborn to life.
The Catholic Church has never taught that the life of a child in the womb should be preferred to that of a mother. In situations where a seriously ill pregnant mother needs medical treatment which may put the life of her baby at risk, such a treatment is morally acceptable provided that every effort is made to save the life of both the mother and the baby. Abortion, on the other hand, is the deliberate intervention to end the life of the unborn child and is gravely wrong in all circumstances. Current law and guidelines in Ireland allow nurses and doctors to make that vital distinction. Statistics continue to show that Ireland is one of the safest countries for pregnant women.
The proposed legislation, if enacted, will fundamentally change medical practice in Ireland. For the first time, doctors will be legally permitted to deliberately and intentionally end the life of an unborn child. This abortion bill, despite what the Government says, is not just a tidying–up exercise, it sacrifices the innocent life of another human being to another's threat of self-destruction. This fails any test of justice.
The Church understands the anguish of those in difficult pregnancies who may wrongly feel that abortion is an option open to them. The Church has its own agencies which are ready to assist and respond compassionately to those who find themselves in such a situation.
During my visits to hospitals, I have met with doctors, nurses and health care workers who have told me that they have a fundamental objection in conscience to being involved in abortion and believe it to be morally unacceptable to nominate another to take their place. They see the proposed legislation as unjust. They believe that there is a grave and serious obligation to oppose unjust laws on conscientious grounds.
It was also unacceptable that hospitals with a pro-life ethos should be forced to provide abortion services or be penalised for such a moral stand. This Government is not listening to those who oppose abortion. Its position is most irresponsible given the basic and fundamental human right involved.
To be truly pro-life means embracing the words of Saint Thomas Moore before his martyrdom, 'I die the King's good servant, but God's first'.
Our public representatives, through the mandate that we have conferred on them, have a vote on this issue, we as citizens do not. However, as citizens we do have a right to make our views known to our public representatives respectfully. This is my prayerful intention today.