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Archbishop criticises proposed changes to Northern Ireland’s abortion law

Archbishop Eamon Martin has appealed to anyone who has information (PA)

Archbishop Eamon Martin, primate of All-Ireland, has criticised proposed changes to Northern Ireland’s abortion law.

A paper published by Northern Ireland’s Department of Justice has suggested changes which would allow abortions in the case of lethal foetal abnormality and sexual crime. The new paper seeks the views of people on the matter before the consultation on amending the criminal law on abortion closes on January 17.

In a statement issued on Sunday, Archbishop Martin said: “I want to bring to your attention a consultation document from the Minister for Justice in Northern Ireland which proposes that totally innocent and terminally ill babies in the womb will no longer have an absolute right to life, nor the right to all the care and medical support that we would expect and wish for any child or adult who is terminally ill.

“Notwithstanding the extraordinary and unprecedented attempt of the consultation document to exclude pro-life arguments from the debate, when we meet the minister and his officials this week, a delegation from the Catholic Church will be making a robust and unapologetic defence of the right to life of both mothers and their terminally ill children during pregnancy and calling for all the love and support that we as a society can give them.”

He continued: “With the support of my fellow bishops, I encourage all those who support a culture of life to respond this week to the consultation process of the Department of Justice and to ask their politicians where they stand on these issues.”

Lethal foetal abnormality is defined as a condition that will kill the baby either in the womb or soon after. Justice Department minister David Ford recommends a change in legislation to allow for abortion in such circumstances.

A spokesman for the Department of Justice said: “It is important to remember this is a consultation exercise and no decisions have been taken regarding changes to legislation.

“The Justice Minister David Ford is keen to hear as many views as possible and is in the process of meeting a range of organisations, including the main churches.”

The development follows a high-profile ruling at Dublin’s High Court last month in which doctors were allowed to switch off the life support of a clinically-dead woman who was pregnant.