The Roman Catholic Church has expressed strong opposition to attempts to this week liberalise Northern Ireland’s abortion legislation at Westminster.
Secretary of State Karen Bradley is today due to bring to the Commons the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill which will again defer what would otherwise be a legal responsibility on her to consider calling an Assembly election due to the failure to establish a Stormont Executive.
However, the move is expected to lead to attempts to change the law in Northern Ireland in several areas via amendments to the bill.
Yesterday The Sunday Telegraph reported that the bill could be pulled by the government in an attempt to quash amendments likely to ease the restrictions on abortion.
On Saturday Archbishop Eamon Martin, the Catholic Church’s most senior figure in Ireland, denounced attempts to make changes to the law in controversial areas such as abortion and gay marriage by using amendments to emergency legislation.
Archbishop Martin said he was “deeply concerned by suggestions that amendments are being considered to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill ... which will hijack this bill to remove existing legal protection for unborn babies and to ‘fast track’ the legalisation of abortion on demand in Northern Ireland”.
He said: “How tragic it is for humanity that some legislators would ‘fast track’ the ending of the lives of the most defenceless in our society?
“Like many others I strongly believe that it is urgent to restore an Executive in Northern Ireland, so that the common good of all our people can be served. There is something particularly cynical, however, in taking advantage of the present political crisis to remove the right to life of the most vulnerable of our people; the unborn baby.”
Archbishop Martin urged “Catholics, and all who share our commitment to the right to life” to contact MPs “as a matter of urgency” to ask them to oppose any such amendments.
Last week Stella Creasy, the Labour MP behind the amendments, said: “According to the UN, women in Northern Ireland face ‘grave and systematic’ human rights violations because we treat them as second-class citizens and deny them their basic human right not to be forced to continue an unwanted pregnancy. It’s time this government stopped hiding behind devolution to defend this situation and please the DUP ... not just what I think: the UN says they can’t use devolution as an excuse for this disgraceful situation.”