Ireland's Church leaders 'gravely concerned' by 'imposition' of abortion legislation

(Photo: Unsplash/Omar Lopez)

The leaders of Ireland's main Churches have criticised the "imposition" of radical new abortion in Northern Ireland by Westminster MPs.

In a joint statement, leaders of the Church of Ireland, Methodist Church in Ireland, Roman Catholic Church, Presbyterian Church in Ireland and the Irish Council of Churches said they were "gravely concerned" by the reach of the legislation and that it was being introduced to the North without any public consultation. 

The changes are set to come into effect on October 22 unless the Stormont Assembly reconvenes before that time. 

"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," the Church leaders said. 

"We are, along with others, gravely concerned that the imposition of this Westminster legislation: removes from law all explicit protection for the unborn child up to 28 weeks of pregnancy; offers no specific protection for unborn babies with disability; does not prohibit abortion based on the sex of the baby; creates 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 Churches are asking their members and congregations to join in a weekend of prayer over October 12 and 13 for the protection of the unborn and "also for women facing difficult and challenging pregnancies along with their families".

They are also encouraging Christians to sign an online petition launched by Baroness O'Loan on calling on the Secretary of State to recall the Assembly before October 21 "to provide an opportunity for the parties to seek to restore the Executive and prevent these new laws coming into effect".

"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," the Church leaders said. 

The letter was signed by the Most Rev Dr Richard Clarke, Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh & Primate of All Ireland, Rt Rev Dr William Henry, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, the Most Rev Eamon Martin, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh & Primate of all Ireland, the Rev Sam McGuffin, President of the Methodist Church in Ireland, and the Rev Brian Anderson, President of the Irish Council of Churches.