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Catholics for a Free Choice Meets with Abortion Reform Committee

July 12, 2000

Supports abortion laws that respect women as moral decision-makers

Dublin, IrelandFollowing the submission of a written report to the committee, a delegation of the leadership of the international organization Catholics for a Free Choice (CFFC) had the opportunity to meet with the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution. The committee is hearing testimony as it considers options for reforming Ireland’s abortion law. Noting the moral complexity of abortion and the need to assist women in preventing unwanted pregnancy, CFFC supported number seven of the options laid out by the “Green Paper on Abortion” as most respecting the moral agency of women.  Option seven would permit abortion on grounds beyond those specified in the X case, for example, risk to the physical or mental health of the woman, cases of rape or incest or economic or social reasons.

Catholics for a Free Choice President Frances Kissling told the committee that options one through six as laid out in the Green Paper are not solutions, but a narrow continuum of extremely restricted policy options that range from explicit or de facto bans on abortion to very limited availability on a case-by-case basis.

In opening remarks, Catholics for a Free Choice Vice President Jon O’Brien noted that prominent theologians past and present have articulated more nuanced positions on the morality of some abortions than the official position of the Catholic church today reflects. “There is much room in Catholic theology for the acceptance of policies that favor access to reproductive health options such as contraception and abortion.  The Irish members of the Catholic church—like Catholics elsewhere—clearly do not accept the teaching that abortion is always wrong in every circumstance. Public opinion proves it and the droves of women who travel to England and Wales each year to have abortions prove it,” O’Brien said.

Kissling stressed the secular nature of law, respect for the right of the church to speak on this issue and the obligation of legislators to act in favor of the common good.  “The acceptance of the rights and responsibility of the state to legislate in ways that contradict church teaching is new for the church.  The Declaration on Religious Freedom, which articulated this separation, is a product of the Second Vatican Council and the 1960s.  It will take some time for the church to fully accept its own principles of religious freedom,” noted Kissling. “The Catholic church has come to accept democracy and the democratic process and this process gives certain responsibilities to legislators.  Legislators have an obligation to address this issue in a way that is reflective of a commitment to justice and the well being of the entirety of the Irish citizenry.  While we recognize that religion can and does make a contribution to law and policymaking, it is equally important to protect and promote the diversity of religious opinion.  In a pluralistic society in which many faith groups recognize the possibility of abortion’s morality, Catholics need not work to legally restrict abortion,” she added.

Eileen Moran, Ph.D., CFFC board member and sociologist with the Michael Harrington Center, Queens College, New York, commented on the importance in social ethics of listening to those most impacted by laws, in this case listening to Irish women.

Kissling concluded, “I thank you for the opportunity to be a part of this continued dialogue on abortion in Ireland.  While we respect the right of the Catholic church to participate in the policymaking process, I respectfully submit that our position offers a lens for viewing this situation that can both respect the Catholic tradition and the rights of women.”


–end statement–