Churches and anti-abortion campaigners speak of their shock

Bernie Smyth of pro-life group Precious Life outside Belfast Royal Courts of Justice yesterday. Picture by Ann McManus.

ANTI-ABORTION campaigners have urged Attorney General John Larkin to appeal yesterday's high court ruling.

Northern Catholic Bishops have said they were “shocked and disturbed” by the High Court’s ruling on Monday.

"The Catholic Church teaches that the duty to care for and protect human life extends equally to a mother and her unborn child in all circumstances,” they said in a statement.

"Having met with many parents whose unborn child with a life-limiting condition has lived for hours, days, weeks and even years bringing immense happiness, we are profoundly shocked and disturbed at the Judges words that such children are ‘doomed’.

"The judge compounds this by saying that ‘there is no human life to protect’. By any human and moral standard these children are persons and our duty to respect and protect their right to life does not change because of any court judgement."

The statement added: “The Church will continue to consider the full implications of the judgement of the High Court in Belfast and of any appeal which may follow."

The winter general meeting of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference is taking place in Maynooth this week.

Meanwhile, anti-abortion campaigners have urged Attorney General John Larkin to appeal yesterday’s high court ruling.

Bernadette Smyth, of Precious Life, branded the court ruling “undemocratic” and said it would usher in a flood of women seeking the procedure.

“This is an undemocratic decision today – it will clearly see, long term, the opening of the floodgates,” she said.

Ms Smyth argued that better support and care services should be provided for women who have been victims of sexual crime.

"Killing a child in any circumstance is always wrong. We trust that the attorney general will appeal this case and ensure that unborn children will continue to be protected in law, policy and practice in Northern Ireland.

"The Right to Life is granted neither by judges nor politicians but it is their duty to protect it. We cannot and will not accept a ruling that is so morally wrong in denying the fundamental rights of the most vulnerable human beings in society.”

Peter Lynas of the Evangelical Alliance said it “refutes the assumption that abortion is ever best practice or the default choice of the majority of women in either of these tragic situations”.

“No medical professional can ever say with 100 per cent certainty that a child will not survive birth. Sexual crime is a grievous abuse of a woman’s dignity and rights. Abortion cannot undo the terrible harm and tragically creates a second innocent victim,” he said.

“It is alarming that human rights are being used to end human life.”

Ruth Cullen of the Pro Life Campaign also took issue with Judge Horner’s comment that in the case of an fatal foetal abnormality, “there is no life to protect”. 

“When the foetus leaves the womb, it cannot survive independently. It is doomed,” Dr Cullen said.

“The judge in this case has set the value of the unborn child at zero and ignored the well documented negative after effects of abortion for many women.”

“[The] decision is a reminder that abortion allows some human lives to be judged less worthy of legal protection. It is the role of the judicial system to uphold and protect basic human rights like the right to life.”

Rev Norman Hamilton of the Presbyterian Church said “the current law attempts to strike a careful balance between protecting the life of the mother and the unborn child.

“A key issue that remains, irrespective of today’s ruling, is the provision of comprehensive care in every part of Northern Ireland for every woman facing a pregnancy crisis.

“If we truly want Northern Ireland to be a place that affirms life, wellbeing and human dignity, then providing excellent perinatal care services, including practical, emotional and spiritual support, must be a top priority.”



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