The bishops said the step was the latest in a series of decisions by the British government, based in Westminster, London, that threatened “the fragile balance of relationships at the heart of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement,” which ended the 30-year conflict known as The Troubles.
“Sadly, some of our local political parties seem content to welcome this unilateral move by Westminster on an issue which is of fundamental importance to local voters, while rightly challenging such unilateral impositions on other issues,” said the bishops, who included the Primate of All-Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin.
They continued: “In unilaterally imposing this direction on the local Northern Ireland Assembly to provide abortion services, it is as if the Westminster government, and those local parties who have supported them, believe the answer to the issue of providing compassionate care for a woman and her unborn child in pregnancy can be framed simply and exclusively as a ‘healthcare issue.’”
“Absent from the discussion however are the thousands of unborn children, who have no legal protection and whose humanity is excluded from the political equation. It is for this reason that the argument for the protection of all human life can never be abandoned or referred to human rights experts alone.”
“Westminster has imposed an unjust law. Christians, and all people of goodwill, can never stand silently by and fail to raise their voices at any attempt to ignore completely the fact that unborn children are human beings worthy of protection.”
Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, but abortion law is considered to be a devolved issue under the control of the Northern Ireland Assembly.