Catholic bishops have led criticism of ‘brutal’ and ’tragic’ new laws which mean abortion has been decriminalised and same-sex marriage legalised in Northern Ireland.
“This is a tragic day for the unborn children who will now never bless our world with their unique and precious lives,” the bishops of Northern Ireland said in a statement.
“Abortion is a brutal violation of the precious gift of life. 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,” they added.
Amendments to the Northern Ireland Bill were passed in July, supported by majorities in the House of Lords and House of Commons.
The legislation stated that, if the Northern Ireland Executive was not convened by 21 October, abortion would be imposed on Northern Ireland.
The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), along with some other unionist politicians, triggered a recall of the Northern Ireland Assembly on 21 October, in an attempt to prevent the new laws being introduced. However, the move failed because a new speaker could not be elected on a cross-community basis, meaning the legislation passed.
Sinn Féin refused to take part in these talks, rejecting them as a ‘cynical political stunt.’ The bishops were critical of this reference in their statement.
“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,” they said.
The bishops have been joined by several prominent pro-life voices. Baroness Nuala O’Loan criticised the way in which the legislation was passed.
“It took 17 minutes on July 18 for the House of Commons to receive and agree the proposed change to Northern Ireland’s abortion law,” she said.
“Just 17 minutes. Those who passed the law did not represent us and they did not take time to work out the consequences of what they were doing.”
Popular Belfast priest Fr. Paddy McCafferty condemned the ‘barbaric law’, and called on the people of Northern Ireland to withdraw support for politicians who supported the new legislation.
“I implore all faithful Catholics, faithful Christians and all good people who value human life and true (not fake) human rights, to withdraw all support from pro-abortion/choice politicians and political parties,” he said.
Pro-life group Precious Life responded by setting out their plans to protest the new bill.
“We will step up our ‘Lobby for Life’ political campaigns, and our ‘Youth for Life’ street outreach campaigns, to expose the horrific reality of abortion,” they said in a statement.
“The battle to protect our most vulnerable citizens – our unborn babies – is far from over.”
The bishops ended their statement by encouraging political parties to bring together the Assembly at Stormont.
“We appeal to all local parties to redouble their efforts to restore the Assembly and power-sharing Executive…and to address the urgent need to build a society based on respect for the right to life and concern for those most in need,” they said.
They also encouraged voters to pray for a change to the law.
“We 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.
Picture: In this 2007 file photo, children in London march during an anti-abortion demonstration. (CNS photo/Toby Melville, Reuters)