Presbyterian moderator: Abortion powers given to secretary of state are devastating

The Irish Presbyterian Church has castigated the Westminster parliament’s confirmation of abortion powers given to the Northern Ireland Secretary of State as “destructive” and a “serious” blow to the workings of devolved government in the province.

Saturday, 1st May 2021, 7:34 am
Presbyterian Moderator Rev Dr David Bruce

“The abortion powers given to Secretary of State Brandon Lewis seriously undermine devolution and they are also devastating for the protection of unborn children,” says the Presbyterian Church, Northern Ireland’s largest Protestant denomination.

The church calls on Mr Lewis to totally ignore the new powers and reflect on how destructive they could be.

Speaking after the debate on the Abortion (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2021 in the House of Lords this week, Presbyterian moderator the Rev Dr David Bruce said: “When the Secretary of State introduced regulations last month seeking powers to implement abortion legislation over and above the heads of MLAs, we described the move as ‘unreasonable, unacceptable, ill-considered and irresponsible’.

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“We now deeply regret that parliament has given its approval for these radical, sweeping powers, which not only devalue Northern Ireland’s purposely unique system of negotiated government, but it also gives Secretary of State Brandon Lewis the freedom to interfere directly, and at will, with every single department of devolved government.

“It is difficult to reconcile the fact that during the three years when Northern Ireland did not have a functioning executive, Brandon Lewis’ predecessors did not find it necessary to intervene in its governance, except on budgetary matters and other minor ways. Yet now, when ministers are in office and seeking to govern together, this radical move is now deemed to be essential.”

Last month, a cross-party majority decision in the Stormont Assembly rejected the Abortion (Northern Ireland) 2021 legislation. The 48-12 vote rejection came from across the unionist/nationalist divide.

All of the denominations in Northern Ireland, including the Church of Ireland, Roman Catholic, Methodist, Baptist and Free Presbyterian churches are strongly opposed to the liberal abortion laws to be implemented in this part of the United Kingdom.

This week, the News Letter, over two pages of advertisement, carried a strongly-worded letter of condemnation of the proposed abortion legislation from 250 ministers, rectors and pastors from right across the Protestant religious spectrum.

Presbyterian moderator Dr Bruce, in his denunciation, said: “The Secretary of State, and those supporting devolution, cannot claim to be upholding Northern Ireland’s fragile devolved settlement, while at the same time facilitating this ill-considered and irresponsible intervention which cherry-picks issues and undermines that very system. It should not be forgotten that nearly 80 per cent of those who responded to the public consultation on abortion regulations in 2019 were against the proposals.

“This is a sad day not only for devolution, but also for protection of unborn children, leaving children with Down’s Syndrome and other conditions unprotected and incredibly vulnerable, not to mention those perceived to be of the ‘wrong’ gender. We call on the Secretary of State not to use these new powers and reflect on how destructive they could be.”