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Ali Selim, a senior Muslim cleric in Dublin, argued against proposals to permit abortion for women impregnated in cases of rape. He said such women “deserve due sympathy and help, but a child conceived in this unfortunate situation still has the right to live.”

Michael Nugent, leader of the Atheist Ireland group, said abortions should also be legalized for pregnancies caused by both rape and incest, and in cases where the fetus had been diagnosed with a fatal abnormality or severe handicap. Such pregnancies typically are ended in England, where more than 4,000 pregnant Irish women receive abortions annually.

“Whatever laws you pass, please base them on human rights and compassion and on applying reason and empirical evidence, and not on religious doctrines,” Nugent told lawmakers.

The government expects to publish its abortion bill by Easter and pass it by June.