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Church leaders speak out against 'deplorable' commissioning of full abortion services in NI

by Tola Mbakwe

Church leaders have expressed their deep disapproval that full abortion services will officially be set up in Northern Ireland. 

Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris wrote to the Department of Health on Friday asking for it to go ahead with plans, with services expected to become available in early to mid-2023.
Speaking on behalf of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI), General Secretary Rev Trevor Gribben described the decision as "deplorable". 

He said in a statement: "The fact that Mr Heaton-Harris has chosen to give life to the most destructive liberal abortion regime in these islands is not only deeply regrettable, but deplorable. It is a sad and distressing day for everyone who values the sanctity of life, and is devastating for those who will not live to experience it.

"There are many challenges facing Northern Ireland and its Health Service in particular, including lengthy waiting lists, staff recruitment and retention, and other services that are under resourced. It is particularly curious to note that no interventions appear to be forthcoming in these areas - no 'ring-fencing' of resources for the real priorities of those who work in and are served by our NHS".

This instruction from Mr Heaton-Harris comes after the UK Government announced on 24th October that it would be commissioning abortion services in Northern Ireland, "where the Secretary of State is under a statutory obligation to ensure that access to safe high-quality abortion and post-abortion care are available".

Currently, women in Northern Ireland are able to get an abortion if the pregnancy is less than 12 weeks, and if the pregnancy is causing her life to be in danger. This is done an ad-hoc basis.
Friday's announcement now means funding will available to Health and Social Care Trusts to recruit and train staff that will help set up what the government describes as "full range of high quality services are available".

Mr Heaton Harris said: "The UK Government is steadfast in its commitment to ensuring women of Northern Ireland have access to safe, high-quality and local abortion services.

"As Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, my officials at the Northern Ireland Office and I will continue to work with the Department of Health and healthcare professionals to ensure a range of abortion services become readily available across all health and social care trusts in the coming months."

But Most Rev Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, has said he rejects Westminster's priority of abortion at time of health and cost of living crisis. 

"This urgency to push through abortion while the Northern Ireland Assembly is down, continues as Christmas approaches, while little is seemingly being done to ensure the urgent provision of Westminster support for the most vulnerable, including children, impacted by the cost of living crisis," he said.

"Westminster seems determined to impose, against the clear will of a majority of people here, the undermining of the right to life of unborn children including an abhorrent and indefensible prejudice against persons with disabilities, even before they are born. 
"The abortion regulations being introduced by Westminster are predicated on the assumption that the unborn child in the womb has no right to love, care and protection from society, unless the child is wanted. Nothing could be further from the truth.  None of us acquire our humanity, or our fundamental right to existence, on the basis of whether or not we are wanted".

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