The Catholic Primate of All Ireland has said that, from a moral standpoint, there is no such thing as 'limited' abortion. 

In his message for the Catholic church's worldwide ‘Day For Life’, Archbishop Eamon Martin said that the medical prognosis for the life of a child in the womb, or the extent of that child's disabilities, is no more morally relevant to deciding if the baby should be allowed to live than it is when considering an adult who faces the diagnosis of a life-limiting condition.

Church sources said Dr Martin's statement sets out the Catholic bishops' position in advance of the first meeting in a fortnight's time of the Citizens' Assembly, established by the Government to consider the Eighth Amendment's strict constitutional limitations on abortion here.

The Primate stated that repeated calls for the repeal of the Eighth highlight the contradictions between our increasing urgency as a society about caring for our planet and other creatures and the apparent determination of many to remove the right to life of unborn human beings.

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Referring to Pope Francis' appeal for a "revolution of tenderness", Archbishop Martin described the Amendment as "fundamentally a declaration of tenderness and love for the equal right to life of both a mother and her unborn child".

He called it a precious and wonderful "undertaking to respect, defend and vindicate that right" here "which places at the very foundations….of our laws a clear conviction that all human life is worth cherishing".

"To deliberately and intentionally take the life of an innocent person, whatever their state or stage of life, is always gravely morally wrong," Dr Martin said.

He called on everyone who believes in a better future for humanity to preserve the dignity and sanctity of human life in all its stages and conditions, as an affirmation of our human capacity for tenderness and love. 

He urged Catholics not to forget that some mothers and fathers experience profound anguish when faced with a crisis in pregnancy and said tenderness compels us to reach out to them. 

And he repeated his Church's call for our politicians to provide every possible service and support to women, parents and families who are faced with severe difficulties and crises in pregnancy.

He said this must include a commitment to providing comprehensive peri-natal hospice services for women and their families responding to a diagnosis of life-limiting disability for their unborn child.

While mostly in Northern Ireland, 40% of Dr Martin's diocese is in the south - including all of Co Louth.