For many reasons, pro-life advocates in Northern Ireland want the attorney general to challenge a November court ruling that would legalize more abortions.
“The right to life is a shared human value, not a uniquely religious value,” said Tim Bartlett, secretary of the Northern Ireland Catholic Council for Social Affairs.
He added that the right to life of an innocent person is “always inviolable” and “a fundamental moral principle on which society and human rights should stand.”
“That right begins from the moment of conception, and science affirms that,” Bartlett said, according to the London daily The Guardian.
A judge on Belfast’s high court said Nov. 30 that abortion could be allowed in cases of rape, incest, and fatal abnormalities in the unborn child. The court claimed the law violates women’s rights under Article Eight of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Northern Ireland Attorney General John Larkin must decide whether to appeal the decision within the next week. He has previously said he was “profoundly disappointed” in the court’s ruling.
Niamh Uí Bhriain of the pro-life Life Institute on Nov. 30 called the ruling “deeply flawed and discriminatory.”
Bartlett voiced several reasons to challenge the ruling. He emphasized the need to care for women whose babies have “life-limiting conditions.”
“In the Church, we work with women whose babies have life-limiting conditions, and these children can live for minutes, hours, days, weeks and in some cases years. The child is still technically, clinically and in every sense alive as a human person, and is entitled to have their life protected.”
Bartlett denounced rape as “the most heinous of crimes.” The response to this, however, “is not to take the life of an innocent third party.”
“The challenge is to give that person every possible support and care.”
Northern Ireland’s largest Protestant denomination, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, has also opposed changes to the current law. Norman Hamilton, a former moderator for the ecclesial community, voiced opposition to abortion on demand and backed strong safeguards to prevent abuse of legal abortion.
However, he distinguished the Presbyterian denomination’s teaching from that of the Catholic Church. The denomination is “content” with the law that allows abortion only in cases where the mother’s life or mental stability is at risk, he said.
Chris Hudson, a minister with a smaller denomination called the Non-subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland, backed more changes. He characterized legal abortion as a matter of “universal rights,” The Guardian reports.
Catholic voices in Ireland have strongly opposed the high court’s decision.
On Dec. 1 Michael Kelly, editor of the Dublin-based newspaper The Irish Catholic, told CNA he believed the high court was “profoundly wrong in side-stepping the inescapable fact that abortion ends the life of an innocent child.”
He rejected claims that change in the law would be limited to certain circumstances, citing international experience.
“(O)nce the principle is conceded that it can ever be justified to target the innocent unborn child in the womb for death, wider access to abortion is inevitable,” he said. “Northern Ireland is one of the last places in the western world to resist the push for widespread availability of abortion. It’s no surprise that the region comes under immense pressure from a coalition of so-called human rights groups and pro-choice advocacy organizations (generally funded from overseas).”
“They will have a fight on their hands: amidst decades of sectarian strife, one of the few things that united the vast majority people of Northern Ireland was a revulsion for abortion,” Kelly said.
He characterized many Northern Ireland politicians’ pro-life views as “unshakable.”