Finola Bruton is chair of the Parish Pastoral Council of Dunboyne & Kilbride
“This referendum on the right to life of the unborn child will challenge us as a society to look at our basic moral vision and to examine our attitude towards the value of every human life. Defending the right to life of the unborn child in the womb is the most important social justice issue of our time. The coming weeks will shape the kind of Ireland we live in for years to come.
“As a society, we proclaim our belief in equality as one of our fundamental values. So how can we reconcile that value with removing the equal right to life of the unborn child from our Constitution?
“Advances in science have made it clear to us for some time now that the unborn child is undeniably one of us. Unborn children are not potential human beings but are human beings with potential. We can no longer talk about the unborn child as a ‘bunch of cells’. Often, before a woman even knows that she is pregnant there is a beating heart and a rapidly developing baby, a little boy or a little girl.
“The right to life is the first and most fundamental of all human rights, without which there can be no others. We cannot exercise any other human right if we are not allowed to exercise the right to live. We cannot say this often enough. Without being allowed to be born, one can have no civil rights, no free speech, no right to bodily integrity.
“Removing this constitutional protection will result in a very inconsistent version of equality is being granted to those who can make their voices heard – but denied to those who cannot. This is the first time in Irish history that a constitutional right may be taken away.
“At every stage of development, life is sacred. Commitment to our beliefs takes remarkable courage, no more so than at this time.”