The Catholic Church has condemned the first all-Ireland conference on abortion and clinical practice in Co Down — while a leading pro-life organisation will protest outside the event.
The Catholic bishops of Ireland, including Cardinal Sean Brady, have issued a statement on the conference stating they “deplore and oppose” the event.
Health professionals from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are attending the conference at the Slieve Donard Hotel in Newcastle which is a joint initiative by the sexual health charity Family Planning Association UK (FPA) and the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA).
Speakers at the conference include leading professionals in their field.
As well as bringing health workers up to date with the developments in abortion provision, there will be information on best practice for those advising women from Northern Ireland and the Republic travelling to England and other European countries to have abortions denied them in their home country.
Abortion in Northern Ireland is illegal except in exceptional circumstances. Women in Northern Ireland who have been raped, victims of incest and women whose baby has been diagnosed as profoundly disabled or which will not live at birth do not have the automatic right to an abortion. FPA has campaigned for the 1967 Abortion Act to be extended to Northern Ireland, saying that women in Britain have been entitled to a legal, safe abortion on the NHS for the last 40 years.
Despite being UK citizens and taxpayers, almost 1,200 women in Northern Ireland collectively spent more than £1m on going to England to have abortions in 2009, and individually had to find up to £2,000 in expenses, the organisation has said.
A statement issued by the Catholic Church has claimed the conference is “clearly designed to undermine the rights and welfare of children in the womb and the consistently pro-life position of the majority of people on this island”.
It continued: “It is an attempt to normalise what is unacceptable. We appeal to all those who cherish the inherent dignity of human life in all its stages to join us in expressing opposition to this event.”