Opus Dei accused of lobbying to prevent Irish abortion reform
The Guardian reports:
Leading doctor and politician John Crown says secret Catholic sect is trying to prevent limited abortion being made legal
The secret ultra-conservative Catholic sect Opus Dei is mobilising within the Irish professions to stop the republic reforming its abortion laws, one of the country’s most prominent doctors has warned.
John Crown, a leading cancer specialist and member of parliament, accused the powerful organisation of trying to exercise influence on the medical profession and politicians to prevent limited abortion being made legal for the first time in Ireland.
The only physician on the parliamentary subcommittee exploring the abortion question at present, Crown said he believed Opus Dei was “a major player” in the campaign to thwart legislation that would allow for abortion when a mother’s life was at risk.
The member of Ireland’s second chamber, the Seanad, said he had received abuse over his role on the subcommittee, particularly when he revealed that 30 terminations had been carried out in Irish hospitals last year.
The Fine Gael-Labour coalition is under intense pressure to introduce legislation that would allow for abortions when a woman’s life is at risk, including from suicide. The momentum for change on abortion laws has intensified since the Indian dentist Savita Halappanavar died from blood poisoning after a Galway hospital refused to terminate her pregnancy last autumn.
Enda Kenny’s government has promised reform but the taoiseach’s Fine Gael party is coming under attack from anti-abortion activists, particularly in rural, conservative parts of the republic, who have threatened to picket the constituency offices of teachta dálas (members of the lower house of parliament, the Dáil Éirann) who previously promised to oppose any change in the law.
Crown said: “I believe that many of the organisations that are most prominent in this campaign in trying to thwart reform will have substantial membership from Opus Dei.”
He said it was time for members of the Oireachtas (parliament) – both the Dáil and Seanad – to be required to declare if they belonged to any secret organisations, such as Opus Dei.
“That is something that should be declared because there are potential conflicts of interest if one believes that one is answering to a higher authority than the parliament of the republic.
“We have several examples in history where leaders of this country asked if people should state their allegiance. Garret Fitzgerald [a former taoiseach] once famously asked his cabinet to inform him if they were members of secret organisations, which I think is not a bad idea at all for the whole of the Oireachtas.”
Despite a highly organised, well-funded anti-abortion lobby, Crown told the Guardian he was confident both houses of parliament would pass legislation allowing abortion in limited circumstances. Such a move would finally enshrine in law the recommendations made by supreme court judges in the X case in 1992, when it was ruled that a 14-year-old rape victim had the right to a termination because of the risk to her life from suicide. Since then successive governments have failed to legislate in relation to the ruling.
Predicting defeat for those who opposed reform, Crown said: “I believe what is going to happen in the next while is less controversial than might be imagined. I think there will be an absolutely, rigidly defined piece of legislation that safeguards the actions of doctors if they perform an abortion to save the life of the mother.
“But it will not be opening the so-called floodgates the way it has in Britain, in terms of abortion on demand. That simply is not going to happen in Ireland because we have an amendment to our constitution from 1983 which protects the life of the unborn, so a UK-style abortion regime is out of the question.”
If Crown is correct and parliament backs the reform it will mark the further dilution of the Catholic church’s temporal power in the republic. Prior to the revelation of clerical child abuse and that bishops were fathering children in secret, the church exercised enormous political influence on the major parties. Since then, Irish Catholics have been less inclined to follow every instruction or denunciation from the pulpit.