Four leaders of the churches in Ireland have sent a letter to the Westminster MPs regarding an amendment to the human Fertilization and Embryology Bill which would legalize abortion in Northern Ireland.
The bill, scheduled to be debated this week, would extend the 1967 Abortion Act to the region.
On October 17 the four religious leaders: Catholic Cardinal Seán Brady, Anglican Archbishop Alan Harper, Presbyterian Moderator Dr. Donald Patton and Methodist President Rev. Aian Ferguson wrote to the MPs expressing their belief that the abortion laws in Northern Ireland should be a matter for the Northern Ireland Assembly.
After addressing that it is the “right of the Westminster Parliament to legislate in this matter,” the religious leaders noted that they “feel it is important for the government to respect the wishes of the people of Northern Ireland and allow locally elected MLAs to take the lead on this issue especially in light of the debate on abortion that took place in October 2007 when all of the main parties in Northern Ireland signaled their opposition to an extension of the 1967 Abortion Act.”
The letter continued by asking the MPs to take into account of the strong anti-abortion convictions held by “the majority of the people of Northern Ireland, by voting against the amendment.”
The religious leaders also pointed out that, “Last year, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland indicated that he felt the Northern Ireland Assembly is the best forum for discussion of these questions. We wholeheartedly agree with this position and ask that you make every effort to ensure that any future changes to the law on abortion in Northern Ireland are solely the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Assembly.”
According to the Archdiocese of Armagh’s website, this is the second time the Church leaders have written to Westminster MPs on this issue.
On October 18, a pro-life rally in Belfast saw around “two thousand people from all over Northern Ireland, and from the Republic vociferously opposing any move to extend the 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland,” the archdiocese noted.