Ireland's Catholic bishops have said the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill could trigger the death of a child in the womb on foot of a risk to the mother's life which is “remote” or “avoidable”.

The warning comes in a briefing note which also says the constitutionality of the bill should be challenged.

It says the bill flies in the face of the new Children's Rights amendment to the Constitution.

The bishops criticise the bill for providing a wide, and at times subjective, interpretation of the risk to the life of the mother, on the basis of which the life of an unborn child can be ended.

They cite the bill's explanatory memorandum which states that, “this risk does not need to be immediate nor inevitable”.

This, they say, means that a risk which is “remote” or “avoidable” could trigger the death of an innocent and voiceless child in the womb;

They criticize the bill for providing appeals mechanisms for a mother to vindicate her right to life while failing to provide any mechanism of defence or appeal for the unborn.

The Bishops reject the Government's claim that the right to life of the unborn will be vindicated by the legislative obligation on medical personnel to "have regard to" the right to life of the unborn "as far as is practicable".

Mulherin waiting to see abortion law amendments

Fine Gael TD Michelle Mulherin has said that she is waiting to see what amendments are made to the bill.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, she said she will then "weigh up on balance" whether or not she can support the legislation.

Over 60 amendments to the bill will be discussed by TDs this week and they will vote on the legislation on Wednesday.

Ms Mulherin said that ideally she would like to see the threat of suicide removed as a reason for permitting an abortion, but she accepted that this was not going to happen.

She has instead suggested a number of amendments to restrict Section 9.

The Mayo TD said that assurances given to her or in the Oireachtas would not stand up in a court of law.

She said clarity needed to be given "in black and white in the legislation".

Ms Mulherin said that she had spoken to Minister for Health James Reilly about her concerns over the weekend.

She is waiting to meet him again, as well as Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Shatter hopes to avoid further Fine Gael losses

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has said he hopes that the Fine Gael party does not lose any TDs over the vote on the bill.

Mr Shatter said he hopes that colleagues ultimately support the Government proposal.

He said Fine Gael was a parliamentary party. He said on occasions within the party they disagree amongst themselves about particular provisions and different aspects of legislation.

He said he would hope that all of his colleagues would go with what is the overall view of the majority of members of the party, that they were all the one family and none of them wanted to see anyone leaving that family.

Mr Shatter was asked if he thought that some of the proposed amendments were enough to keep everyone on board.

He said the legislation is very carefully drafted and designed to ensure that medical professionals know how they can approach a situation where pregnancy poses a real and substantial risk to the life of a woman.

He added that the legislation must ensure that a woman whose life is at real and substantial risk knows where she can go and what assistance is available to her.

Mr Shatter said that lots of issues come along where individual deputies may have concerns.

He said that he was on record as saying, for example, that he thought it was a terrible cruelty that under current legislation a pregnancy cannot be terminated because of a fatal foetal abnormality.

However, he said he totally recognised that within the current Constitutional parameters that that issue cannot be addressed.