The largest Protestant denomination in Northern Ireland has expressed its support for a Bill seeking to protect unborn babies with disabilities from abortion.
Leaders of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland have hit out at the abortion regulations, imposed upon the Province by Westminster politicians in March last year, which allow unborn babies deemed to have a disability to be aborted all the way up to birth.
They say this serves to “perpetuate stereotypes” and gives the impression that a disabled person’s life may not be worth living.
Revd Daniel Kane, Convener of the Council for Public Affairs, and Revd Trevor Gribben, Clerk of the General Assembly, made the statements in a submission to Stormont’s health committee.
The Committee is considering DUP MLA Paul Givan’s Bill which seeks to amend the law to give those with disabilities protection from abortion.
They said the wording of the current abortion regulations are open to interpretation, and that the term “severe fetal impairment” could be used to cover “a range of minor conditions”.
In the UK, similar wording has been used to justify abortions on the basis of Down’s syndrome and even cleft palate, a very treatable condition.
The leaders also said the current law allows “for a subjective judgement to be made on the quality of life of a baby with a severe impairment”, and that it serves to “perpetuate stereotypes towards persons with disabilities”.
They continued: “This is not simply a theological or academic exercise for the church.
“Many of our ministers, and others in congregations, have journeyed alongside women and families who have experienced a pregnancy crisis and been presented with difficult decisions. That continues as they support those who care for loved ones born with a disability.”
The Presbyterian Church in Ireland has over 217,000 members across 535 congregations.