Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

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Lead Irish opposition party promises no change on abortion: Pro-life advocates skeptical

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

DUBLIN, February 10, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Irish pro-life advocates are taking with a grain of salt a promise by one of the country’s front-running political parties, Fine Gael, not to change Ireland’s constitutional protection for unborn children.

In a note to Sligo resident John Ferry, forwarded to LifeSiteNews.com (LSN), a representative of Fine Gael wrote on February 9 that abortion “is a very important issue and Fine Gael has no plans to extend the laws on abortion from the existing constitutional position.”

Fine Gael, usually described in European media as “centre right,” is the Irish Parliament’s largest single opposition party and stands to make significant gains in the upcoming election.

Party representative Jennifer Carroll said, “We will certainly not support ‘abortion on demand’ as being proposed by the Labour party in respect of allowing abortion where the woman’s health, as opposed to her life, is at risk.”

Asked if this note puts their minds more at ease, pro-life leaders in the Irish Republic responded with caution.

“I’d love to say I do believe them and just kick back for the next three weeks,” the Life Institute’s Niamh Uí Bhriain told LSN. But, “As with many political responses, the devil is in the details.”

With less than three weeks to the country’s February 25th general election – and in the midst of an unprecedented economic and political crisis – pro-life campaigners, including the Life Institute, have gone on the road to keep abortion on the front burner of election issues. 

“We’re asking people to get a guarantee from all candidates in the election that they’ll support a ban on abortion,” Uí Bhriain said, “and we’re finding that while many politicians are happy to say they are pro-life, on the specifics of banning abortion they are often fudging the issue.”

She warned that Fine Gael’s promise not to “extend the laws on abortion” could mean one of two things: “That they want to maintain Ireland’s ban on abortion, or that they will follow the European Court ruling which erroneously decided that the Irish Constitution allowed for abortion, and bring in abortion legislation.”

She called it “vital” that Ireland’s pro-life majority “spell out to all election candidates that only a complete ban on abortion is acceptable.”

Rebecca Roughneen of the country’s leading pro-life political and educational campaigners, Youth Defence, who is also on the campaign trail in Mayo county, called it “heartening” that despite the country’s sudden catastrophic economic downturn, voters are “hugely responsive” to requests to put the right-to-life at the centre of voting decisions.

“We’re getting a very positive response to Youth Defence’s ‘Ask the Question’ campaign which seeks to maximize the number of voters asking candidates for a guarantee of a ban on abortion,” she said.

“There is certainly no vocal support for legalized abortion here. We’re getting lots of promises from people that they’ll raise the issue with their candidates.”

Youth Defence has been working to expose a public disinformation campaign by abortion lobbyists who have claimed that Ireland’s pro-life laws deny women legitimate medical treatments, a basis to the arguments made in the notorious ABC case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

That ruling recommended that Ireland should legislate to allow abortion in the case of a threat to the life, as distinct from the health, of the mother. Following its release, politicians of the officially pro-abortion Labour Party used the ruling as a pretext to claim that Ireland is now obliged by international agreements to legalize abortion on demand.

Roughneen added, “There certainly are candidates in every party who are, deliberately or otherwise, trying to confuse legitimate medical treatment for cancer or ectopic pregnancy with abortion.

“We need to spell out the difference and make sure that the parties understand that abortion cannot be legalized by sleight of hand.”

Patrick Buckley, EU affairs officer for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, also told LSN that Fine Gael’s promise must be more specific: “Whilst this statement is certainly better that the position proposed by Labour it is still unsatisfactory.”

Buckley warned that the ECHR ruling has created a political threat to Ireland’s pro-life laws. He also cited a 2009 Supreme Court decision, Roche v. Roche, that said an unimplanted embryo is not “unborn” and therefore does not have constitutional protection.

“The current position in the wake of these two decisions is unacceptable and needs to be addressed,” he said. “What would help is a commitment that in government Fine Gael would be willing to do whatever is necessary to restore complete protection of all unborn life.”

This means, he added, “To the level that existed prior to both the X case and the Roche v. Roche decision. If they are unwilling to do this, an interim measure would be to make a commitment not to interfere with the current status quo.”

John Smyth of the Pro Life Campaign told LSN that there are serious concerns that legalized abortion could be “introduced during the lifetime of the next government.”

Pro-life Campaign has produced thousands of leaflets for distribution in each constituency and is seeking volunteers to help go door to door. “Even the smallest investment of time by pro-life people around the country will help ensure the success of this campaign.”

The leaflets encourage voters to seek commitments from candidates and parties that human life will continue to be protected in Ireland. “A similar effort in 2007 resulted in the political parties giving commitments at that time,” Smyth said. 

To get involved:

Pro Life Campaign:
[email protected]

Youth Defence:
60a Capel Street,
Dublin 1, Ireland.
Phone: 353 1 873 0463
Fax: 353 1 8730464
Email: [email protected]

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