Ireland's Catholic bishops have urged lawmakers to block a government bill that would permit exceptional abortions to protect the lives of women.
In a joint statement Tuesday, the bishops argue that the bill is not necessary to protect women and will, if passed, open the door for gradual widening of abortion access. They say government lawmakers should be permitted to vote against the measure in defiance of Prime Minister Enda Kenny.
Kenny has challenged Catholic Church authority in Ireland since taking power in 2011. He says any lawmaker from his party who rejects the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill will be expelled from the parliamentary group.
The government says Irish doctors need a clear law to ensure that no woman is forced to maintain a life-endangering pregnancy.