Letter to The Irish Times from Archbishop Martin

16 May 2013

Letter to The Irish Times  from Archbishop Diarmuid Martin

Dear Sir

I write as a citizen of Ireland who happens also to be the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin.   Independent of the role of politicians and of judges, the Constitution of Ireland belongs in the primary place to all the citizens of Ireland, whose right to express their views should not just be respected but encouraged.

My concern in this letter is limited to one aspect of the Heads of the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill 2013, namely the protection of perfectly healthy unborn children at a stage of their development where there is the clear presumption that they are viable outside the womb.  There seems to be an inference that in cases where the pregnant woman’s life might be in danger that such a child would loose its constitutional right to equal protection under the law.

My anxiety is that it would to be permissible under Head 4 for medical specialists to certify that the “medical procedure” necessary to avert the risk to the mother’s life consists of the “termination of her pregnancy” in such a manner that will bring an end to the life of the unborn before delivery at a stage when, if a different method of terminating the pregnancy were used, the child would be delivered alive.

It would seem to me that in such a case the only medical treatment which would be in line with the constitutional protection of the life of the such an unborn child would be one in which the child be safely delivered and that reliance on a destructive abortion in such a situation would be in patent contrast with the evident meaning of the words of article 40.3.3 of the Constitution.

There is a growing impression that the judgment of the X-case “is the constitution”.  I believe that it is an interpretation given in a specific case which does not supersede or relativise the clear constitutional right to equal protection for unborn life in the circumstances which I have outlined.  Indeed under Head 4 it would give the life of such an unborn child less protection than is guaranteed in liberal abortion laws in other countries.

+Diarmuid Martin