Abortion Pressure Grows in Northern Ireland

Church Fights Implementation of U.K. Law

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BELFAST, Northern Ireland, JULY 13, 2007 (Zenit.org ).- Pressure is mounting for the new power-sharing government in Northern Ireland to align its abortion laws with the rest of the United Kingdom.



U.K. Members of Parliament are calling for an extension of the 1967 Abortion Act into Northern Ireland, the only area in the United Kingdom where the law legalizing abortion does not apply. This prompted a furious reaction from politicians and Church leaders, the Belfast Telegraph reported.

Abortions in Northern Ireland are still strictly limited, and are only allowed if two doctors find that a pregnancy would damage the physical or mental health of the woman.

The Catholic Church in Ireland called on nationalists and unionists to thwart the effort to extend abortion laws.

Opposition

Father Tim Bartlett, the secretary of the Catholic bishops' commission on social affairs in Northern Ireland, said: "We are opposed to these measures on two grounds.

"Firstly, there is the ethical opposition to abortion and our support for the right to life for the unborn child."

"Secondly," he asked "that the views of the democratically elected representatives of Northern Ireland be taken into account."

Father Bartlett said that during Archbishop Sean Brady's first historic meeting with First Minister Ian Paisley last fall, the issue that most united them was opposition to abortion, the Guardian newspaper reported.

Jeffrey Donaldson, a Member of Parliament for Lagan Valley, said there is "widespread opposition to any move to extend the 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland. This is a matter for the Northern Ireland Assembly to decide," the Telegraph reported.

His party would "vigorously oppose" any move to extend abortion to Northern Ireland, he added.

North Belfast Member of Parliament Nigel Dodds told the BBC that the "overwhelming majority" of people in Northern Ireland, both Protestant and Catholic, reject "any attempt to dilute the law here or to introduce the 1967 Abortion Act into the province."