In a letter addressed to the Members of the Northern Ireland Legislative Assembly (MLA), the country’s bishops express their concern over the “extreme” nature of Westminster’s Regulations regarding a new law decriminalising abortion in Northern Ireland.
Ahead of the debate, taking place today (Tuesday) in the Northern Ireland Legislative Assembly, the bishops open their letter by saying that as the Catholic Bishops of Northern Ireland, they have a responsibility to do all they can “to promote a culture of care and respect for life in our society”.
They explain that this includes “a responsibility to inform the conscience of all members of the Catholic Church and people of good will regarding the fundamental moral values at stake in the issue of abortion”.
The bishops explain that their opposition to the new abortion regulations brought into effect in their country by the Westminster Parliament “is rooted in the Catholic Church’s teaching concerning the dignity of every human life, regardless of age, ability, gender or background”. This teaching, they explain, “prohibits the direct and deliberate intention to end the life of an unborn baby at any stage of his or her development”.
The bishops urge the Members of the Assembly to “take steps to formulate new Regulations that will reflect more fully the will of a significant majority of the people in this jurisdiction to protect the lives of mothers and their unborn children”.
The letter underlines the “extreme nature” of Westminster’s provisions, which extends the possibility of abortion to cases where there are no lethal malformations for the fetus, such as Down’s Syndrome. It is for this reason that the Bishops make an urgent call “to defend the equal right of children with disabilities to appropriate protection and care both before and after birth, as enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child”.
Finally, the bishops reiterate their belief that “politicians and all people of good will, who recognise the extreme nature of the Regulations, should not meekly acquiesce to their promulgation”. They call for urgent action, expressing their desire to enter into dialogue with MLAs and reaffirming their willingness to contribute to the formulation of the new Regulations.
Photo: Anti-abortion campaigners gather with placards in Northern Ireland last October.