On Friday last, at a time when people are struggling to feed their children and heat their homes, and as our overstretched health workers are barely coping under the pressure of financial constraints, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Chris Heaton-Harris MP, instructed the Department of Health to fast track the commissioning and funding of “abortion services”.
In recent years successive Secretaries of State have been moving with alacrity to expedite the introduction of some of the most extreme and liberal abortion services on these islands, invoking the primacy of Westminster and undermining the principle of devolution. 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.
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.
An important mark of any humane and compassionate society is our ability to work through difficult challenges in a way which is life affirming, not life destroying. Followers of Jesus, and countless others who advocate the equal right to life of every mother and her unborn baby, believe that as a human family we have the capacity to love and care for one another, especially for mothers facing crisis in pregnancy, in a way that does not involve bringing about the death and destruction of vulnerable children in the womb.
The Catholic Bishops of Northern Ireland have spoken out strongly and often on these issues in recent years. We remain committed to working with all sectors of society in Northern Ireland so that a culture of life and care becomes a reality for all.
I therefore appeal once more to all people of goodwill to publicly defend the rights of all children in the womb to be treated equally and to have their right and that of their mothers to love, care and protection by our society respected and upheld.
- Archbishop Eamon Martin is Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland