Statement by the Catholic Bishops of Northern Ireland on the coming in to effect of Westminster abortion legislation in Northern Ireland

31 Mar 2020

Today across NI, all of us, especially our medical staff, are doing all we can to save life. As the number of deaths caused by Coronavirus continues to rise, news reporters frequently remind us that behind the statistics are real people.  Their lives matter regardless of age or ability, gender or background. To limit the loss of life and heart break for many families, the UK Government is investing heavily in providing the resources necessary to treat patients and protect the lives of all staff working to deliver front-line services.

Against this background, we are saddened and dismayed at the Government’s decision to introduce extreme regulations for the delivery of abortion services in Northern Ireland. They go far beyond what is legally required by the Northern Ireland Act (2019), (‘the Act’), and utterly ignore the views of many citizens – women and men – who responded to the consultation exercise last December. Their implementation will facilitate one of the most liberal abortion regimes anywhere in the world. During the pandemic when so much is being done to protect lives, these regulations do not reflect the overwhelming will of most people in Northern Ireland to protect the life of every human being.

From this week onwards, some unborn children will be left completely defenceless. No-one will be able to do anything for them once the decision to abort has finally been made. This is a disturbing prospect for our society, where the majority of people still seek to promote the values of compassion and respect for every human being.

The life of every mother and her unborn baby matters. These new regulations are predicated on the legal assumption that the unborn child has no rights, unless the child is wanted. Every unborn baby matters regardless of age or ability, gender or background. He or she has the right to be protected in a community where everyone belongs and deserves our respect. Every woman faced with an unplanned pregnancy matters too. She has a right to be cared for within a community where she is protected from any pressure to abort her baby.

It is to be noted that members of the Northern Ireland Assembly are not left entirely devoid of influence.  Politicians and all people of good will, who recognise the extreme nature of the Regulations, should not meekly acquiesce to their promulgation.  The Regulations themselves can be debated by the Assembly and insofar as they exceed the strict requirements of the 2019 Act, new Regulations can be enacted by the Assembly.  We intend to make these points in writing to our MLAs in the coming days and encourage others to do likewise.

In a community where the culture of life is promoted and celebrated, these rights of mothers and their unborn babies would always be protected. We, the Catholic Bishops of Northern Ireland, remain committed to working with all sectors of society, so that this culture of life becomes a reality for everyone. 

+Eamon Martin
Archbishop of Armagh and Apostolic Administrator of Diocese of Dromore

+Noel Treanor                                  
Bishop of Down and Connor          

 +Donal McKeown    
Bishop of Derry        

+Larry Duffy
Bishop of Clogher

+Michael Router
Auxiliary Bishop of Armagh


For media contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long +353 (0) 86 172 7678 and Brenda Drumm +353 (0) 87 310 4444.