The Archbishop of Armagh, Eamon Martin, has attacked the UK government's decision to “fast track” the roll out of abortion services in Northern Ireland, describing it as the opposite of what a “humane and compassionate society” would do.
“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,” said Archbishop Martin on 2 December.
“Nothing could be further from the truth.”
He added: “None of us acquire our humanity, or our fundamental right to existence, on the basis of whether or not we are wanted.”
The Archbishop was speaking in response to repeated efforts by Westminster to push forwards with commissioning and funding abortion services in Northern Ireland.
In October of this year, the then-Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris announced the UK government would take the unusual step of directly funding abortion services in the region.
Noting that the UK parliament decriminalised abortion in Northern Ireland in 2019, Mr Heaton-Harris said it was “not right that three years on, women and girls in Northern Ireland are still unable to access the full range of health care to which they are lawfully entitled”.
Archbishop Eamon’s statement came as MPs debated the inclusion of abortion in the forthcoming “Bill of Rights”, prompted by an online petition requesting that MPs consider adding abortion access to the rights laid out in the government’s bill.
Speaking for the government Edward Argar, Minister in the Ministry of Justice, stressed the present administration's commitment to ensuring “safe, regulated” abortion access – but said he did not believe the Bill of Rights was the right place to propose legislation on the topic.
Speaking in the debate, the Catholic MP Sir Edward Leight pointed to the record levels of abortion in the UK – 200,000 a year – and asked the Commons to “look at how the state has failed so many women that they feel abortion is the only option available to them”.
Elsewhere in the country, a pro-life campaign in Bournemouth has launched a legal challenge against their local council after the introduction of a Public Spaces Protection Order enforcing a 150 metre “buffer zone” around a local abortion clinic.
The group claims that the move infringes upon basic rights of freedom of speech, and one resident living within the “buffer zone” claims it has criminalised talking about abortion in their own property.