Church leaders call for restoration of Stormont to stop abortion

Joint statement urges NI secretary to reconvene Assembly before October deadline

MPs at Westminister have passed a Bill stating that abortion will be decriminalised in Northern Ireland unless Stormont is restored by October 21st. Photograph: Paul Faith/AFP/Getty Images

MPs at Westminister have passed a Bill stating that abortion will be decriminalised in Northern Ireland unless Stormont is restored by October 21st. Photograph: Paul Faith/AFP/Getty Images

 

Church leaders have called on the political parties to reconvene the Stormont Assembly to prevent the introduction of abortion in Northern Ireland next month.

They have issued a joint statement expressing “grave concern” at the prospects of Westminster imposing abortion in the North.

MPs at Westminister have passed a Bill stating that abortion will be decriminalised in Northern Ireland unless Stormont is restored by October 21st.

Abortion is a devolved matter, but MPs have found a loophole which means that direct rule can be imposed in relation to the issue if there is no assembly running.

As most commentators believe it is highly unlikely that Stormont will be restored by that date, Northern Ireland will have the same abortion laws as the rest of the UK next April.

Same-sex marriage will also be legalised in Northern Ireland if devolution does not return.

In a joint statement released on Monday the leaders of the Church of Ireland, Methodist Church in Ireland, Roman Catholic Church, Presbyterian Church in Ireland and the Irish Council of Churches have called for concerned people to lobby their locally elected representatives about the proposed changes to the North’s abortion laws.

Foisted

The church leaders stressed that the changes proposed were being foisted on the people of Northern Ireland without their consent.

“Our Northern Ireland political parties have it in their own hands to do something about this. They all need to take risks and make the compromises necessary to find an accommodation that will restore the devolved institutions,” they stated.

There is no evidence that these changes reflect the will of the people affected by them, as they were not consulted

“We are calling on the Secretary of State to recall the Assembly before 21 October to provide an opportunity for the parties to take the necessary steps both to prevent these laws coming onto effect and to find a better Northern Ireland solution for these challenging issues.”

The church leaders added: “There is no evidence that these changes reflect the will of the people affected by them, as they were not consulted. They go far beyond the ‘hard cases’ some have been talking about.

“We are, along with others, gravely concerned that the imposition of this Westminster legislation.”

Explicit protection

They go on to state that the proposed laws will remove all explicit protection for the unborn child up to 28 weeks of pregnancy.

They further allege that the new law will create a potential vacuum of up to five months in Northern Ireland for unregulated abortion to exist, with all the attendant health risks to women.

The church leaders have asked for prayers from congregations over the weekend of October 12th and 13th for the “protection of the unborn in our society and also for women facing difficult and challenging pregnancies along with their families”.

They have also asked concerned individuals to sign the online petition which Baroness Nuala O’Loan has recently launched via Change.org.

The letter is signed by the Church of Ireland primate Dr Richard Clarke, the Catholic Archbishop of Armagh Dr Eamon Martin, the moderator of the general assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Rev Dr William Henry, the president of the Methodist Church in Ireland, Rev Sam McGuffin and the president of the Irish Council of Churches, Rev Brian Anderson.