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Defending life from the moment of conception

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International pro life leaders call for no vote in Irish abortion referendum

28 February 2002

International pro-life leaders call for "no" vote in Irish abortion referendum London, 28 February 2002--Leading international pro-life leaders have condemned the Irish government's abortion referendum proposals as "a new liberal law that will increase the number, the scope and the types of abortions performed." In a letter to all priests in Ireland, the pro-life leaders say that "Christians cannot in good conscience support either the Bill's specific proposals or the Bill as a whole" and that "the current position of the Irish bishops is based on a misunderstanding of the legal effect of these amendments". The letter is signed by, among others, Dr Jack Willke, president of the International Right to Life Federation, and John Smeaton, director of Europe's largest pro-life organisation, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), UK. Pro-life leaders from the United States, Australia, Canada, Italy and Kenya also signed the letter. The leaders emphasised Cardinal Connell's statement that the Irish bishops' opinion on the referendum was not binding on Catholics. The international coalition of pro-leaders said that failing to vote No at the referendum would mean: * the direct (intentional) killing of a child in the womb up to birth would be permitted. * the morning-after pill and other means of destruction of the pre-implanted embryo would be legitimised. The full text of the letter follows. URGENT MEMORANDUM TO IRISH PRIESTS FROM INTERNATIONAL PRO-LIFE LEADERS From: * Reverend Father Ignacio Barreiro STD, director, Human Life International, Rome. * Dr. Jack Willke MD, president, International Right to Life Federation and president, Life Issues Institute, USA. * Austin Ruse, president, Catholic Family&Human Rights Institute (C-Fam), United Nations. * John Smeaton MA (Oxon), national director, Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), UK. * Gregory E. Smith LL.B, president, Right to Life Association (NSW) Inc, Australia, and barrister-at-law. * Bruno Quintavalle MA DipLaw, barrister-at-law, director, ProLife Alliance, UK. * Dr. Deal Hudson, publisher&editor, CRISIS magazine, USA. * Jim Hughes, national president, Campaign Life Coalition, Canada. * Dr. Margaret Ogola, national secretary, Commission for Health&Family Life, Kenyan Episcopal Conference. 25th February 2002 Dear Father, We are writing to you to express our grave concern about the proposed amendments to the Irish Constitution to be voted on at the 6 March referendum and as contained in the Protection of Human Life in Pregnancy Bill. His Eminence Desmond Cardinal Connell has stated that "Catholics informed of the bishops' views on the issue were free in conscience to vote differently". As international pro-life leaders representing many thousands of both Catholics and non-Catholics, we therefore feel at liberty to voice our views in this serious matter, especially as these amendments may set a precedent affecting the defence of the unborn in other European and/or common-law countries. Most notable among these amendments is, firstly, the removal of criminal protection for the right to life of the pre-implanted human embryo currently guaranteed by Article 40.3.3 of the Irish Constitution; and secondly, permission for direct (intentional) abortion throughout pregnancy on the ground of preserving the life of the mother. Firstly, if the amendments are approved, it will no longer be a crime to kill an unborn child before his or her implantation in the womb. The motivation behind this amendment is the legitimisation of the morning-after pill (the primary action of which is to abort the unborn child by preventing implantation) and other means of destruction of the pre-implanted embryo. An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has stated that "the use of 'morning-after' pill and the IUD will be lawful under these proposals." This has been confirmed by Mr Ahern's deputy Mary Harney, who has said: "Certainly I could never support or would never have supported legislation that wouldn't facilitate the morning-after pill being used.". Such a change may pave the way for the European Court of Human Rights to take away the protection of Article 2 (the right to life) of the European Convention on Human Rights for the unborn child before implantation. Secondly, the proposals will also permit the direct (intentional) killing of even a child in the womb. Clause 1(2) of the Bill would not only allow the ending of life of the unborn post-implanted baby 'as a result' of the carrying out of a medical procedure, but also 'in the course of" such a procedure. As no time-limit has been specified, abortion would therefore be allowed up to birth. There is no medical or moral justification for intentional abortion on the vague pretext of "saving the life of the mother". This pretext is the backdoor through which liberal abortion has been introduced in several countries. This very same amendment was rejected by the Irish people in the 1992 referendum. Before that referendum, five Irish bishops urged Catholics not to vote for that amendment and the remainder of the bishops made no recommendation. We are therefore saddened that the Irish bishops have now abandoned this principle. Amazingly, it has been claimed that support for the Bill accords with paragraph 73 of Pope John Paul II's encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), because the suicide precedent set in the X case (1992) may be abolished by the Bill. In that paragraph, however, the Pope speaks of the passing of a more restrictive law. The Government's Bill is the exact opposite, a new liberal law that will increase the number, the scope and the types of abortions performed. Not one single known abortion has been performed under the X case precedent. The current position of the Irish bishops is based on a misunderstanding of the legal effect of these amendments. It is absolutely clear to us that the Bill weakens the protection for the unborn child currently provided by the Constitution. As a further explanation of these facts, we enclose the legal opinion [available from SPUC] of eminent barrister Richard Gordon Q.C. Many of us have been educated to respect Ireland as a strongly Christian country. We believe that Christians cannot in good conscience support either the Bill's specific proposals or the Bill as a whole.

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