Commissioning of NI abortion services

26.10.2022 | Church in Society, Statements, Education

Alongside this week’s announcement by Rt Hon Chris Heaton-Harris,Secretary of State for Northern Ireland that he is to formally commission abortion services, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI), has expressed its deep concern and dismay at the number of abortions which have taken place in Northern Ireland since the legal change in 2020.

Speaking after a meeting of PCI’s Council for Public Affairs Council, which was held in Assembly Buildings, Belfast, Council Convener Rev Daniel Kane said, “As a Church with a strong pro-life position, over the last number of years we have consistently put on record our total opposition to Westminster’s imposition of the most destructive liberal abortion legislation in these islands.

“Figures provided recently by the Department of Health show that over 4,100 abortions have taken place across the five health trusts in Northern Ireland between 31 March 2020 and 26 September this year, an average of 140 per month. This compares to an average of around 86 per month in 2018 and 2019 of those accessing abortion services from Northern Ireland in England. The genuine fears and concerns expressed by PCI about the removal of the legal protection of future generations of Northern Ireland’s unborn children have, unfortunately, come to pass.”

Mr Kane continued, “We recognise that women, and their families, may find themselves in a crisis situation for a variety of reasons, which could include a medical diagnoses, difficult personal circumstances, and increasingly the pressures of the cost of living. This is why a new response is required to support women and their families, including the provision of comprehensive perinatal care services that involve practical, emotional and spiritual support for women, alongside other measures, including appropriate welfare mitigations.

“Such interventions would help to ensure that the provision of abortion services here would, by necessity, be rare. We would also like to take this opportunity to commend ministers and their congregations who often provide this caring, pastoral and practical support to those who find themselves in such difficult circumstances.”

Mr Kane concluded by saying, “At the same time, we deeply regret that Mr Heaton-Harris, like his predecessor, has recently indicated his intention to continue to override our fragile devolved settlement in relation to such sensitive issues. In doing so he proposes to use powers not only to direct Northern Ireland Executive Ministers and Departments on this issue, but also potentially interfere with matters which stretch beyond the provision of abortion services, in education and other areas, which is clearly worrying. Such a scenario would be unthinkable in the Scottish or Welsh devolved contexts.”

“There are many challenges facing Northern Ireland and its Health Service in particular, waiting lists, staff recruitment and retention, services that are under resourced. It is curious to note that no interventions appear to be forthcoming in these areas.”

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