Cardinal snubs Irish leader at college graduation

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.

Cardinal O'Malley objects to Mr 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 United States Catholic bishops have urged Catholic institutions not to honour government officials who promote abortion.

Mr 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.

Cardinal O'Malley called abortion a "crime against humanity" and said he would not attend the ceremony because Boston College did not withdraw its invitation, and Mr Kenny did not decline it.

The government has been under international pressure to clarify the rights of doctors to perform life-saving abortions since last October, when a miscarrying woman died from blood poisoning in an Irish hospital after being denied a termination. The foetus 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 make credible threats to kill themselves.

In 2010, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Ireland's failure to back the Supreme Court judgment with laws and medical regulations meant Irish doctors were left in legal limbo, and women were endangered in the process.

The court based in Strasbourg, France found that doctors sometimes told pregnant patients who needed abortions, particularly to keep their cancer in remission, to travel to Britain for the procedures. The court ordered Ireland to remedy the situation.

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 do receive abortions annually, but only for the most clear-cut medical emergencies.

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