Catholic Coalition Challenges Bishops’ Statement on Abortion
Newspaper Ad Urges a “No” Vote on Abortion Referendum
An international coalition of prochoice Catholics have joined to counter Irish bishops’ lobbying in support of the Abortion Referendum on Wednesday, 6 March 2002. “There is much room in Catholic theology for the acceptance of policies that favor access to reproductive health options such as contraception and abortion,” said Catholics for a Free Choice President Frances Kissling, lead organizer of the coalition. “The church’s teaching against abortion is not infallible and there is no actual teaching on when the fetus attains personhood,” stated Kissling.
Frances Kissling noted, “In a statement to the Irish Times, Cardinal Desmond Connell claims a desire for the State to uphold the dignity and worth of each person. Is it not time for Irish women to have a little bit of dignity of their own? Each year, as many as 7,000 Irish women are forced to leave Ireland to exercise their right to choose. The Irish members of the Catholic church—like Catholics elsewhere—clearly do not accept the flawed teaching that abortion is always wrong in every circumstance,” Kissling continued. “Public opinion proves it and the droves of Irish women who travel to England and Wales each year to have abortions prove it.”
In an ad appearing Monday in the Irish Examiner, the coalition urges citizens not to “turn back the clock” in Ireland to the Dark Ages and deny suicidal women the right to an abortion in their own country. The ad poses the question, “Don’t Irish women deserve better?”
The coalition is comprised of Catholics for a Free Choice and Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir (Catholics for the Right to Decide) groups from countries where the church hierarchy has strong political influence—Brazil, Bolivia, Spain, Chile, México, Colombia, France, Canada, United States and Córdoba, Argentina.
Elfriede Harth, European representative of Catholics for a Free Choice said, “Public opinion polls in Ireland have indicated that 78% of Catholics follow their own consciences in making moral decisions about abortion. Remembering the horrors of the ‘X’ Case in 1992, when it became known that a 14-year-old girl could be forced to give birth to her rapist’s child, it is appropriate that Irish Catholics will once again rely on their own consciences rather than the advice of the Irish bishops when they go to vote next week.”
María Consuelo Mejía, director of Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir México, said, “In the last few days, Irish bishops have spoken out in favor of a referendum that would close the small window through which a desperate Irish woman might crawl for a legal abortion. We live with bishops who squander their moral authority fighting against abortion rather than advancing women’s health and rights. We live with politicians who care more about what the bishops say than what the people think. It is time for people around the world to say stop, enough. We will not have women’s rights and dignity eroded and destroyed. We will not live in a past that does not respect women.”