The Church of Ireland opposes abortion on demand, but believes exceptions based upon “undeniable medical necessity” should be permitted under law.
Last week the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr. Michael Jackson and Mr. Samuel Harpre, Secretary of the Irish General Synod, testified before the Joint Committee on Health and Children of the Oireachtas (Irish Parliament) as part of three days of public hearings on the implementation of the Government decision following the publication of the Expert Group Report into matters relating to A, B & C v. Ireland.
The case of A, B & C v. Ireland before the European Court of Human RightsECHR 2032 (2010) held there was no right for a women to have an abortion, although it held Ireland had violated the European Convention on Human Rights by failing to provide an accessible and effective procedure by which a woman can have established whether she qualified for a legal abortion under current Irish law.
In their prepared statement to the committee, the Church of Ireland leaders said they welcomed the government’s desire “to bring clarity” to the issue.
“This is a matter of almost indescribable complexity – both human and medical. We fully recognize that any decision which, in respect of a woman’s health, results in a termination is a terribly weighty one,” they said.
The Church of Ireland “stands with the notion of ‘real and substantial risk’ to the life of the mother in making decisions on terminations of pregnancies. Our statement flows from the Report of the Lambeth Conference 1958 which uses the similar phrase: ‘strict and undeniable medical necessity,’ as follows: ‘In the strongest terms, Christians reject the practice of induced abortion or infanticide, which involves the killing of a life already conceived (as well as a violation of the personality of the mother) save at the dictate of strict and undeniable medical necessity’.”
Following the hearing, Archbishop Jackson and Mr Harper said the “Church of Ireland opposes abortion but recognises that there are exceptional cases of strict and undeniable medical necessity. We believe the proposal to legislate and regulate in the area of abortion is overdue and welcome.
There was a variety of opinion within the Church of Ireland on what constituted “exceptional cases” they said, “but agreement that it includes circumstances where the continuation of the pregnancy poses a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother.”
However, they stated the Church of Ireland “emphasises the right to life and this includes the equal right to life of the mother and of the unborn child.”