BOSTON (AP) — Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny is speaking at commencement ceremonies at Boston College on Monday, so Boston’s Roman Catholic Cardinal Sean O’Malley is staying away.
O’Malley objects to Kenny’s support for legislation in his country that would permit abortion in Ireland.
The leader of the Boston Archdiocese traditionally gives the benediction at Boston College’s graduation, but the U.S. Catholic bishops have urged Catholic institutions not to honor government officials who promote abortion.
Kenny says the bill simply clarifies when a doctor can perform an abortion to save a woman’s life. But Irish Catholic bishops say it would greatly expand abortion, particularly by permitting it in certain cases when a woman threatens suicide.
O’Malley called abortion a “crime against humanity” and said would not attend the ceremony because Boston College didn’t withdraw its invitation, and Kenny didn’t decline it.
The government has been under international pressure to clarify the rights of doctors to perform life-saving abortions since October, when a miscarrying woman died from blood poisoning in an Irish hospital after being denied a termination. The fetus died.
In 1992, Ireland’s Supreme Court ruled that an abortion should be lawful only if doctors determined one was necessary to preserve the woman’s life — including cases when women making credible threats to kill themselves.
Ireland has the most severe restrictions on abortion in Europe. An 1861 law makes it a crime punishable by life in prison to procure or perform an abortion. The bill would reduce that maximum prison penalty to 14 years. Dozens of women in Irish maternity wards annually do receive abortions, but only for the most clear-cut medical emergencies.