Northern Ireland

Bishops express 'grave concern' over abortion teaching plan for schools

Archbishop Eamon Martin. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Archbishop Eamon Martin. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA Wire

THE head of the Catholic church in Ireland has joined northern bishops in voicing "grave concern" over plans to teach post-primary pupils on abortion access.

The senior clerics, led by All-Ireland Primate, Archbishop Eamon Martin, spoke at the Summer General Meeting of the Irish Bishops' Conference in Maynooth, describing the proposals by Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris as "radical legislation".

The plan would see the compulsory teaching of abortion and early pregnancy prevention in all post-primary schools.

Mr Heaton-Harris said it is "fundamental for their wellbeing that adolescents in Northern Ireland have access to age-appropriate, comprehensive and scientifically accurate education on sexual and reproductive health and rights".

Among the clerics at the conference was Bishop of Derry, Donal McKeown, who previously said he was concerned that schools which opted not to offer the lessons would be "criminalised" under the proposals.

"Having already imposed some of the most radical abortion laws in the world on the people of Northern Ireland, without their consent, the secretary of state now seems determined to impose an ideologically biased view of abortion on all schools, irrespective of parental rights or school ethos," the bishops said in a joint statement.

"This is radical legislation the British government doesn’t even impose on schools in Britain, where the right of parents to be involved in decisions about such ethical and pastoral issues is fully respected.

They added: "There is no such thing as a neutral view on abortion. There is no such thing as a value-free or ethically neutral approach to the question of when life begins and when we have a duty to protect and care for all human life. These are matters subject to sincerely held differences of opinion across the world."

Read more: Schools pupils to get information about access to abortion and contraception services