DUBLIN (CNS): In the face of anger and criticism, the bishops of Ireland have expressed their anguish and sorrow over the death of a woman who died in childbirth on October 28 at the University Hospital of Galway.
In an official statement released on November 19, the bishops said that any pregnant women should receive all treatment necessary to save their lives, even if the procedure results in the unintended death of an unborn child.
The bishops’ statement came three weeks after the death of the 31-year-old Sri Lankan, Savita Halappanavar, who died after miscarrying her unborn child.
Halappanavar died after medical staff at the hospital determined they could not end the child’s life, because they could detect a fetal heart beat, even as the woman’s husband, Praveen, urged them to do something to save the life of his wife.
Halappanaver’s death has led to an outpouring of public anger.
Thousands of people have taken to the streets calling for the constitution of the country to be changed and the ban on abortion be removed.
The Standing Committee of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference described the case as a devastating personal tragedy in its statement.
It also acknowledges that the circumstances of the death are a tremendous tragedy for the Halappanavar family and points out that the bishops are aware that the matter has stunned the whole country.
The bishops set out to clarify Church teaching on the need for medical intervention to save the life of a mother.
They noted that they believe Ireland’s medical guidelines do contain adequate ethical provisions to allow medical staff to intervene in such a circumstances, as long as all necessary steps have been taken to save the lives of both mother and unborn child.
The bishops insist that the Catholic Church has never taught that the life of a child in the womb should be given preference over the life of the mother.
“Whereas abortion is the direct and intentional destruction of an unborn baby and is gravely immoral in all circumstances, this is different from medical treatments which do not directly and intentionally seek to end the life of the unborn baby,” the bishops point out in their statement.
The bishops also reiterated a statement made by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, from Dublin, when he told the Catholic News Service on November 18 that this death does not make Ireland an unsafe place for expectant mothers to give birth in.......