Northern Ireland’s Catholic bishops denounce ‘brutal’ new abortion laws
The Catholic bishops of Northern Ireland have denounced Westminster’s imposition of new ‘draconian’ and ‘brutal’ abortion laws on the country.
‘At midnight last night, 21st October, all explicit protection for the unborn child up to 28 weeks of pregnancy was removed in Northern Ireland, leading to potentially one of the most liberal and unregulated abortion regimes in the world,’ the bishops said in a statement today.
‘This is a tragic day for the unborn children who will now never bless our world with their unique and precious lives. It is also a sad day for our local democracy,’ they added.
The bishops explained that they, along with tens of thousands of others, had been calling on their political representatives to restore the Northern Ireland Assembly, not only to address the pressing economic, social, health, welfare and educational issues of these times, but especially to debate and halt the abortion legislation, which was rushed through the Westminster parliament earlier this year.
In July, MPs voted 328 to 65 to change Northern Ireland’s abortion law and legalise same-sex marriage if the Assembly had not reconvened by 21st October.
The Assembly did sit for the first time in over two-and-a-half years yesterday but the members were unable to influence the law changes as the Assembly could not function properly in the absence of a ministerial executive.
The DUP’s attempt to table legislation to halt the abortion reform fell at the first hurdle after outgoing speaker Robin Newton ruled that the bill could not be considered until a new speaker was elected – an appointment that was impossible without nationalist approval.
Sinn Fein boycotted proceedings while the SDLP walked out after making clear it would not participate in the election of a speaker.
DUP leader Arlene Foster has vowed to explore legal options to stop Westminster’s imposition of abortion in the country.
However, Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald welcomed the law changes, branding the DUP’s behaviour in the Assembly chamber a “stunt” – a comment the bishops branded ‘deeply offensive’.
‘To describe as a ‘stunt’ the efforts of thousands of citizens from all sections of our community to make use of the democratic system to address an issue of such fundamental importance is deeply offensive,’ the bishops said.
‘The unavoidable truth is that our locally elected representatives had the time and the power to prevent this draconian Westminster abortion legislation being introduced over the heads of local citizens but chose not to do so. It is the duty of citizens to hold their elected representatives accountable for the decisions they have made.
‘Abortion is a brutal violation of the precious gift of life,’ the bishops continued. ‘The right to life is not given to us by any law or government. Any human law that removes the right to life is an unjust law and must be resisted by every person, every voter, every political representative. For Catholic politicians this is not only a matter of protecting the human right to life but also a fundamental matter of Catholic faith.
‘We have consistently said that the equal right to life, and love, of a mother and her unborn child is so fundamental to the common good of every society that citizens deserve the fullest participation in the democratic debate about the legislation which governs it,’ the bishops said.
‘Similarly, the freedom of conscience of healthcare professionals needs to be respected and they should never be required to lend their support to an action which conflicts with their commitment to uphold life.’
The bishops also asked all voters to respond to the forthcoming short consultations on the Westminster legislation that has been introduced and ‘to leave their representatives in no doubt as to how they feel in these matters’.
‘We also call on people to continue to pray for a society which respects the equal right to life and care of a mother and her unborn child, with a compassion that welcomes every child as a unique and wonderful gift,’ they said.
The bishops also raised their concern ‘at the redefinition of marriage which effectively places the union of two men, or two women, on a par with the marriage relationship between a husband and wife which is open to the procreation of children’.
Picture: Thousands of people stage a silent demonstration at Stormont over the planned liberalisation of abortion laws in Northern Ireland. (Rebecca Black/PA).Tags: Abortion, Northern Ireland, Westminster