Church call against pill out of step with public
Three-quarters want morning-after drug to be available over the counter
Three out of four Irish people now believe the morning-after pill should be available from the local chemist without prescription, a new survey has found.
The result comes just two months after Catholic priests were ordered by the hierarchy to reiterate the Church's profound opposition against all forms of abortion, including the morning-after pill.
In Britain the morning-after pill is already available to women including under-age girls from a pharmacist, if he or she is satisfied that they are competent to make the decision to take it and are in good health. Gordon Brown's government have also announced moves to make the contraceptive pill available over the counter under a new pilot scheme
The latest Irish survey carried out by the Irish Pharmacy Union on a sample of 1007 adults showed that 75 per cent are in favour of the morning-after pill (Emergency Hormonal Contraception) being available from the pharmacist without a prescription, following a consultation with the pharmacist on its safe use.
Such a move was opposed by 19 per cent with the remainder not expressing an opinion.
Those opposed to easy availability of the abortifacient are mainly over the age of 50, and are more likely to be women than men.
Just two months ago the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin issued sermon guidelines to priests, in which he urged them to speak out about "the defence of the value and worth of human life in the womb."
Entitled 'Blessed is the Fruit of your Womb', the letter highlighted the sacredness of human life at all stages of development.
"The Church is opposed to all direct attacks against innocent human life such as abortion, abortifacient pills and devices, the abortion pill and the morning-after pill, destructive embryo and embryonic stem cell research, genetic engineering, euthanasia, because it believes that every life has purpose, meaning and inherent value," the pastoral says.
The issue was discussed by the hierarchy at their closed autumn meeting in St Patrick's College Maynooth in October. It led to an instruction to priests both sides of the border to devote their Sunday sermons to denouncing abortion as a crime against the unborn.
The results of the survey suggest that the All-Ireland conservative front against liberalising abortion in all its forms faces an uphill battle- at least in terms of the morning-after pill.
Senior DUP figure Jeffrey Donaldson revealed in the Irish Catholic newspaper recently that opposition to abortion was agreed as central common ground by the North's First Minister, Dr Paisley, and the leader of the Irish Catholic Church the then Archbishop and now Cardinal Sean Brady at their historic meeting.
Pharmacists are convinced that the morning-after pill and a number of other drugs should be available across the counter. They believe that many women requiring the morning-after pill find it hard to get an appointment with a GP at the weekend, when the pill can be needed.
Research carried out last year by the Crisis Pregnancy Agency found that significant numbers of women in the 17-25 year age group had experienced an unplanned pregnancy.
European-wide research indicated one-in-five young people aged 15-24 years do not use any form of contraception and over a quarter did not use it the first time they had sex.
Around 50 per cent of the consultations in GP surgeries in Irish colleges involve students seeking help for sexual health problems and contraception.