Ireland’s bishops have mourned the thousands of unborn babies who were aborted in the country last year, saying the “staggering” number is a “fresh call to conversion” for politicians and society as a whole.
Official statistics, released by the Department of Health and described by pro-life groups as “Ireland’s shame”, revealed that 6,666 abortions were carried out in Ireland during 2019. The figures are particularly significant as they cover the first full year of legal abortion in Ireland since the new law came into effect in January 2019.
Commenting on the figures, the Irish Bishops’ Council for Life noted that in recent months the country has experienced the traumatic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Noting that the virus has touched every sector of society, with many people suffering emotionally and economically, they said: “We think immediately of those who have died, 1,735 people as of 30th June. Each one was a unique human being, created in the image of God, and each one’s death is being grieved by a family, a friend, a community.”
In the statement the bishops pointed out that “Every human life is worthy of respect and care from the moment of conception to natural death”.
“The enormous contrast between the collective grief of the nation at the recent deaths of so many people, and the bland five page report from the Department of Health, published on the same day, 30th June, which details the 6,666 – six thousand six hundred and sixty six – ‘Terminations of Pregnancy’, which took place in Ireland in 2019, is staggering,” they said.
The report states that 24 of the abortions were carried out on medical grounds and those carried out on the grounds of a ‘condition that was likely to lead to the death of the foetus’ numbered 100.
The Irish bishops pointed out in advance of the referendum in 2018 that there is absolutely no moral justification for deciding that a baby should die because he or she has a serious health condition.
“The vast majority of babies who were aborted in Ireland last year, 6,542 of them, are euphemistically described as having been ‘terminated’ in ‘early pregnancy’,” the bishops said. “While we never got to know them personally, each one was a unique and precious human being. It was not their fault that their conception was inconvenient or untimely, or the result of sexual assault or that their parents lacked the support that would have helped them to embrace life.”
The bishops noted that the publication of the Government report is “a timely reminder for Irish society of the concrete consequences of the decision made in May 2018, when the majority of Irish voters (66.4 per cent) chose to remove constitutional protection from the unborn, and the majority of politicians voted to enact this law against life”.
“The report, for those who will look beyond the statistics, represents a fresh call to conversion for individuals, for the political establishment and for society,” they said.
The bishops reminded the faithful that it is an “important expression of our pro-life commitment that Catholics would commit to offering practical and emotional support to women who experience difficulty because of pregnancy”.
“We encourage all our parishioners to be sensitive to this need in their own network of relationships and to support the various pro-life organisations which offer that kind of outreach,” they said.
“While there may be no public grief over the deaths of these 6,666 unborn babies, we know from our own experience that there will be much unexpressed personal grief. We take this opportunity to invite all those affected by abortion – women and men – to avail of spiritual, sacramental and pastoral support, and we assure them that they will be welcomed without judgement and helped to find healing and peace.”
Many pro-life groups also condemned the Government for spreading lies during the referendum that the repealing of the Eighth Amendment wouldn’t lead to an increase in abortions.
“When you add today’s figure of 6,666 abortions to the 375 abortions on women from Ireland who travelled to England in the same period, the figure amounts to 7,041 in total. This compares with a figure of 2,879 for the full year of 2018,” said Maeve O’Hanlon, of the Pro Life Campaign.
“It’s the first time in 18 years that there has been an increase in the number of abortions and the first time in our history that thousands of innocent unborn babies have had their lives ended with the full backing of Irish law.
“Sure, we can avert our eyes from the truth of what is now legally sanctioned by continuing to dress it up with words like ‘choice’, but that won’t change in any way the profound injustice of what the new law permits.”
The Life Institute said that the figures were “horrific and heartbreaking”, and that they proved when abortion was made legal the number of abortions carried out “always and inexorably rose”.
“We were told in the referendum that a Yes vote wouldn’t lead to an increase in the number of abortions, but that claim, like so many others, has been shown to be a lie,” said Niamh Uí Bhriain, of Life Institute. “Simon Harris and Leo Varadkar assured us that abortion would be ‘legal and rare’: how can anyone call 6,666 abortions rare?
“How can anyone want more abortions to take place? It’s a shocking indictment of the failure of this abortion regime.”
Life Institute said that the Yes campaign and the media had repeatedly claimed that abortion was required to protect women’s lives or for very rare hard cases, but the figures showed that most abortions were for social reasons.
“Behind that number are 6,666 lives – babies who were unique and irreplaceable but whose lives were ended and discarded, and 6,666 women who were failed by this government who offered them no other choice than abortion,” Ms Uí Bhriain said. “These figures should be Ireland’s shame – 6,666 lives ended by Repeal. We have lost our sense of compassion, and people need to open their eyes to the reality of what the abortion referendum has meant – more and more abortions, and a failure to love and support women.”
Meanwhile, Bernadette Smyth, director of Precious Life, said the figures are “are absolutely appalling” and “need to serve as a real wake-up call for the people of Ireland”.
“From these horrific figures, we can see very clearly that the Irish people were lied to repeatedly and gravely misled,” she said. “Abortions have increased dramatically in one year alone, and this abortion regime has left a devastating trail of death and destruction. Ireland has also failed the thousands of women and families who will now undoubtedly have to deal with the pain of post-abortion regret.”
Liam Gibson, SPUC political officer said: “No government, no state, regardless of a referendum can abrogate the God-given right to life of even one member of the human family. Abortion is never justified, every child has the right to be born regardless of their stage of development, their disabilities or the circumstances of their conception.
“The pro-life people of Ireland have fought a long, hard battle to protect women and children from abortion. It is very important that they do not remain silent in the face of this terrible injustice. Their commitment to defend every individual unborn child by speaking out against abortion at every opportunity will, in the end, prove to be decisive.”
Picture: Archive photo, dated 12th May 2018, shows pro-lifers from Stand up for Life campaign in Merrion Square, Dublin. (Niall Carson/PA).