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Church leaders denounce abortion legalization in Northern Ireland; say 'will of the people' ignored

Church leaders denounce abortion legalization in Northern Ireland; say 'will of the people' ignored

The Parliament for the Republic of Northern Ireland, based in Stormont, Belfast, Northern Ireland. | Facebook/Parliament Buildings, Stormont, Belfast

Corrections Appended

An ecumenical coalition of Irish denominations have released a joint statement denouncing the upcoming decriminalization of abortion in Northern Ireland due to a vote taken by British Parliament.

In July, British Parliament held two votes that legalized abortion and same-sex marriage in the Republic of Northern Ireland; they will likely take effect on Oct. 21 unless the British nation forms a government that counters the votes.

Leaders representing the Church of Ireland, Methodist Church in Ireland, Roman Catholic Church, Presbyterian Church in Ireland and the Irish Council of Churches released a joint statement on Monday calling on people to lobby local elected officials about the changes.

The joint statement denounced the Parliament votes, stating, "There is no evidence that these changes reflect the will of the people affected by them, as they were not consulted.”

The statement described these specific problems the leaders see with the law: 

– Removes from law all explicit protection for the unborn child up to 28 weeks of pregnancy;

– Offers no specific protection for unborn babies with disability;

– Does not prohibit abortion based on the sex of the baby;

– Creates a potential vacuum of up to five months in Northern Ireland for unregulated abortion to exist with all the attendant health risks to women.

The statement encouraged member to consider signing a Change.org petition.

And, the statement encouraged the Northern Ireland government to find a solution.

“We are calling on the Secretary of State to recall the Assembly before 21 October to provide an opportunity for the parties to take the necessary steps both to prevent these laws coming onto effect and to find a better Northern Ireland solution for these challenging issues,” stated the churches.

“Our Northern Ireland political parties have it in their own hands to do something about this. They all need to take risks and make the compromises necessary to find an accommodation that will restore the devolved institutions.”

Part of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland works under a government that must be shared by two different political parties.

However, disagreements between the two dominant political parties – the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein – led to a government shutdown in 2017 that has yet to be resolved.

As a result, Parliament took direct control of Northern Ireland and held two votes decriminalizing abortion and legalizing same-sex marriage.

Stella Creasy, a member of Parliament who belongs to the Labor Party and championed the votes, celebrated their passage in a post to Twitter.

“Thank you to everyone who today stood up for equality in Northern Ireland,” she tweeted, as reported by The Guardian.

“… whether for same-sex marriage or abortion, today we have said everyone in the UK deserves to be treated as an equal. There’s a road to go yet but today a big step forward."

Correction, October 2, 2019: 

This article originally stated that the joint statement denounced Parliament's imposition of gay marriage in Northern Ireland. The statement only mentioned abortion. The article also incorrectly referred to Northern Ireland as a republic and a "British country"; it is part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. 

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