by Hilary White
DUBLIN, February 21, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – With less than five days left to election day, Ireland’s leading opposition party, Fine Gael, has issued a statement saying they are “opposed to the legalisation of abortion.”
The statement was hailed by pro-lifers as an indication of their success in keeping the life issues front and centre of an election that has been dominated by Ireland’s economic crisis. At the same time pro-life campaigners told LifeSiteNews.com that are still “some serious concerns.”
Fine Gael, the party likely to take the lead in Friday’s election, also said it was “opposed to research conducted on human embryos, and favours alternative stem cell research that does not involve human embryos such as adult stem cell and umbilical cord research.”
However, pro-lifers are concerned about the party’s promise to “establish an all-party Oireachtas [Parliamentary] Committee … to consider the implications to the recent ruling of the European Court of Human Rights and to make recommendations.”
“Fine Gael’s representatives will bring to the proposed all-party committee a clear commitment that women in pregnancy will receive whatever treatments are necessary to safeguard their lives, and that the duty of care to preserve the life of the baby will also be upheld,” said the party’s statement.
A spokesman for the Life Institute, Niamh Uí Bhriain, told LifeSiteNews.com that there are still “some serious concerns” about the party’s position and has written to the party’s leader Enda Kenny, asking the party to take the pro-life “pledge.”
“They say they oppose abortion but then they follow by stating that a Committee will decide what to do in regard to the European court ruling. They can’t have it both ways and we need clarity on this immediately.”
“What will Fine Gael do if their Committee recommends the legalisation of abortion?”
Two weeks ago, pro-life advocates in Ireland expressed their skepticism when a representative of Fine Gael told a voter that the party will uphold the country’s status quo on abortion. Each of the country’s leading pro-life groups called on the party to be much more specific.
Bernadette Smyth, Director of Precious Life, said her group welcomed this more detailed statement, but called on the party to “take the pledge.”
Smyth and Precious life were among the 30 signatories of a call for all of Ireland’s political parties to promise that they “will not dismantle Ireland’s Constitution” and will maintain the right of the people to decide constitutional changes by referendum.
Politicians who take the pledge agree that they “will respect and uphold the Constitutional right of the Irish people to decide on Ireland’s unique pro-life status,” and “will not legislate for abortion and will absolutely oppose any attempt by unelected judges from the European Court of Human Rights, (ECHR) to usurp the Constitutional right of the Irish people to decide on abortion.”
Uí Bhriain said that Fine Gael “must recognize” that there is never any medical necessity for abortion, “or we face the danger of legislation which ‘regulates’ legitimate medical treatment by describing them as ‘lawful abortions.’” Over the last year, the Life Institute and other pro-life advocates have been fighting a running battle with abortion lobbyists who have sponsored a media campaign that claims that women are being denied “medical treatment” because of Ireland’s laws.
“There seems to be confusion - deliberate or otherwise - in Fine Gael statements when distinguishing between legitimate medical treatment and abortion,” Uí Bhriain said.
However, she said her group also welcomes the party’s opposition to embryonic stem cell research, “in particular since we’ve spent a decade explaining the difference between adult stem cell research and lethal research on human embryos.”
Last week, a poll was released showing that the Irish overwhelmingly support continued constitutional legal protections for the unborn and restrictions on embryonic research.
The strongly pro-EU Fine Gael, one of the first political parties to emerge after Irish independence, has the second largest number of seats in the Irish parliament and the most representatives in local government and the European Parliament.
While a referendum would be required to change the constitution, which protects the unborn, pro-life campaigners have long warned that abortion advocates are working to bring abortion into the country through the “back door.” One of these back-door attempts was the notorious “ABC case” brought to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
In its ruling, the court did not call for Ireland to change its law; however, Labour Party leader Eamonn Gilmore has claimed that it required the legalization of abortion on demand, a major plank of the Labour party’s campaign.
Fine Gael is usually described in the European press as “centre right.” It has never held power in government without the Labour Party as a coalition partner.
Patrick Buckley, the EU representative for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children said, “Politicians choose their words very carefully and there is as yet no firm commitment that they will not legislate for the introduction of abortion should the proposed all party committee make such a recommendation.”
“Neither have Fine Gael said what their position will be in the event that they do not have an overall majority and enter into a coalition with the pro abortion Labour Party.”