Campaigners criticise Archbishop Eamon Martin over 'callous' abortion comments

TFMR accuses Catholic primate of unfairly conflating fatal foetal anomalies with disabilities

eamon martin

Archbishop Eamon Martin | Photo: PA Archive

A group representing families who have experienced fatal foetal abnormalities during pregnancy has hit out at Archbishop Eamon Martin after he defended Ireland's strict abortion laws.

Campaign group Termination for Medical Reasons (TFMR) described a message issued by Catholic primate of all Ireland for the church's annual Day of Life as "callous" and "hurtful".

In a statement marking the worldwide event yesterday, Mr Martin remarked that there was "no such thing as 'limited' abortion" from a moral point of view.

"The medical prognosis for the life of a child in the womb, or the extent of that child’s disabilities, is no more morally relevant than it is when considering an adult who faces the diagnosis of a life-limiting condition," he said.

Mr Martin was equally insistent in his defence of the eighth amendment, which he called "precious" and "wonderful" in its "clear conviction that all human life is worth cherishing".

He added he could not help observing "one of the great contradictions of our age: that, at the same time as society is developing a more urgent sense of the need to care for our planet and other creatures, many seem determined to remove the right to life of unborn human beings".

Responding to his comments, TFRM said it was not the first time that Dr Martin had "deliberately conflated" fatal foetal anomalies with disabilities or life-limiting conditions.  

"It is a fact that babies die as a result of foetal abnormalities.  This death may occur during the pregnancy, during delivery or shortly thereafter," the group said.

"There is no intervention or treatment available which can alter this outcome.  

"It is also a fact that denying the choice of a termination of pregnancy in these circumstances is a breach of human rights and is cruel, inhuman and degrading as determined by the United Nations Human Rights Committee in the case of Mellet v Ireland earlier this year."

'Rejected'

Claire Cullen-Delsol from Waterford, whose daughter was diagnosed with a fatal foetal abnormality during a 20-week scan, questioned whether the archbishop was speaking from "a place of sincere concern".

Clare was refused her request for an induced labour and was unable to travel to the UK for the procedure. She was only permitted to have labour induced after her daughter died, five weeks after the diagnosis.

"It was the worst time in my life.  I couldn't function, I couldn't look after my other children," she said.

"I just wanted the suffering to end and I have never ever felt so rejected and alone."  

She added: "The Catholic Church in Ireland has a long, tragic history of distrust and contempt of women and at best a cavalier, and at times vicious attitude towards the children interned in its institutions.

"The extent of this is soon to be discovered when the remains of an estimated eight hundred dead babies will be exhumed in Tuam.  

"Given this reality, it is hard to believe the archbishop is speaking from a place of sincere concern for women and their dying babies."

TFMR spokesperson Gerry Edwards said: "My wife and I lost our son Joshua to anencephaly.  Most of his brain and skull was missing.  

"He could not live outside the womb.  In fact, it is most unlikely that labour would have triggered spontaneously and would have had to be induced.  

"What difference does it make to the archbishop, or anyone else for that matter, whether my wife had an induced labour at 22 weeks, 32 weeks or 42 weeks?

"We know of many other women whose babies, through cruelty of nature, had similarly catastrophic conditions and they made the unbelievably heartbreaking decision to end these pregnancies at a time of their choosing in the best interest of their babies, themselves and their families."