Northern Ireland

Anti-abortion letter circulated at NI Catholic services

Catholic communion ceremony Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A letter on the possible abortion legislation was handed out at Roman Catholic church services

A vote by MPs to liberalise abortion laws "treats the people of Northern Ireland with contempt", according to a letter handed out at Roman Catholic church services across NI.

The letter was jointly written by Baroness Nuala O'Loan and Church of Ireland Archbishop Lord Eames.

MPs voted to introduce same-sex marriage and change abortion laws if devolution was not back by 21 October.

The letter was addressed to Prime Minister Theresa May.

It said that MLAs had voted against changing the law on abortion in 2016.

Image caption Baroness Nuala O'Loan co-wrote the letter to the prime minister

"The imposition of this legislation on Northern Ireland in its current form, voted for only by MPs who do not represent constituencies in Northern Ireland, would represent a massive democratic deficit," the letter said.

"The manner in which there has been an attempt to change abortion law in Northern Ireland this week treats the people of Northern Ireland with contempt."

"It has the capacity to undermine the delicate political calibration between Northern Ireland and Westminster and to cause significant damage to attempts to restore the Northern Ireland Assembly."

'Withdraw the Northern Ireland bill'

The letter also said the proposed change in legislation had been introduced without proper debate or consultation.

It claimed that if the government legislated to liberalise abortion law in Northern Ireland it would be "complicit in the constitutional abuses which occurred last week in the House of Commons".

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Media captionThe law on abortion in Northern Ireland explained

Baroness O'Loan and Lord Eames called on the prime minister to withdraw the Northern Ireland Bill - on which MPs voted to approve amendments on abortion and same-sex marriage.

Failing that, they said the government should support an amendment they - and Lord Hay of the DUP - have introduced ahead of the House of Lords debate on the bill this week.

It would require a public consultation and the support of a majority of MLAs before any change in legislation.

"We the undersigned cannot overstate the grave importance of this matter," the letter concluded.

In a separate note from Baroness O'Loan, handed out with the letter, she asked other people to sign it before it was presented to the prime minister on Monday.

"We are hoping that by Monday thousands of people will have signed it," her accompanying note said.

"I know time is short but abortion will come here if we don't do what we can."

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