Presbyterians outline pro-life stance, but compassion urged

The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland takes place this week. 'Picture by Arthur Allison / Pacemaker.
The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland takes place this week. 'Picture by Arthur Allison / Pacemaker.

The Presbyterian Church in Ireland has expressed its ‘deep concern’ about proposals to widen access to abortion in the Republic or Ireland.

During discussions surrounding access to termination on the island of Ireland strong pro-life views were expressed, however Ulster University Chaplain Cheryl Meban warned Presbyterians to approach the issue ‘mindfully’.

Ulster University Chaplain Cheryl Meban

Ulster University Chaplain Cheryl Meban

The comments came as the General Assembly discussed proposed changes to the Eighth Amendment of the Republic or Ireland’s Constitution by the Citizens’ Assembly recommending significant widening of access to abortion including termination for no reason up to 12 weeks.

Very Rev Dr Trevor Morrow, chair of the Republic of Ireland panel of the council for public affairs, said the proposals were so radical they were “beyond anything that David Steele introduced in 1967 with all its implications”.

“It is in fact an advocacy for abortion on demand,” he said.

Dr Morrow added: “I would urge this assembly to express our deepest anguish and distress that this legislation and practice should take place on this island of Ireland.”

Rev Cheryl Meban said she did not oppose the church’s position but warned the church to “be very mindful” when dealing with the question of abortion.

She said it is very easy to take a “high principled view”, but – quoting the example of a woman in a violent relationship – she said it was a huge decision as to whether to bring a child into the world without support.

She urged the church to be “thoughtful and considerate” so that no one feels “judged or excluded”.

Rev Alistair Beattie of Second Broughshane said he had recently been moved by the sight of the “complete form” of a 22-month-old baby born prematurely who did not survive.

“To feel that such little lives are being destroyed, that is my concern,” he commented.

He said there was so much care available to mothers to be cared for with their child.

Rev Norman Hamilton thanked Rev Meban for “articulating a position that was different to that of the church”.

He added that it is a huge challenge for the Presbyterian church to negotiate through what is a constitutional issue in the Republic and a criminal issue in NI.

The General Assembly resolved to express its “deep concern regarding the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly” and call upon the Irish Government to ensure that the best possible support is made available to women facing crisis pregnancies.

It will also appoint a task group to focus on the issue.