Presbyterian Church reaffirms opposition to abortion on demand and calls for more organ donors
The Presbyterian Church has restated its opposition to abortion on demand for social reasons or as a means of birth control at its General Assembly.
Church members were also asked to join the Organ Donor Register and to encourage others to do so.
The General Assembly accepted the resolutions of a wide-ranging report on abortion, the first detailed report on the subject since 1981.
It reaffirmed the position that human life begins at conception, and from that moment, the human embryo should be treated in a manner in accordance with full human dignity.
The Assembly also recognised that "while the termination of pregnancy may be morally preferable to any alternative when continuation of the pregnancy would involve a serious risk to the life of the mother, the most stringent safeguards should be provided to prevent abuse".
Reverend Dr Lesley Carroll said: "There are many women who, when reading this report or hearing this debate, will feel anything but compassion.
"I have a difficulty with the phrase 'abortion on demand.' It implies that there are women who simply want to turn up at a clinic somewhere and have an abortion at any stage in their pregnancy with no questions being asked. That cannot happen."
The Assembly also asked the church's Council for Church in Society to help promote blood and organ donation.
Lindsay Conway, the secretary of the Church's Council for Social Witness, said that around 200 people in Northern Ireland and about 550 in the Irish Republic are on the transplant waiting lists.
He said: "In Northern Ireland, 36% of people are on the organ donor register, and about 15 people die each year while waiting to receive an organ.
"One of the best and most practical things we can do as a church is to encourage our members to give the gift of life through organ donation by joining the Organ Donation Register."
Presbyterians were also challenged to consider the moral issues involved in increased state borrowing, the EU referendum, and consumerism.
The Very Reverend Dr Norman Hamilton, Convenor of the Council Church in Society, said: "It is a profoundly moral question as to whether the State should borrow ever more millions, since the repayment of those loans will fall on future generations who had no say in the decision to borrow in the first place."
Turning to the EU Referendum, Dr Hamilton said: "It is a profoundly moral question as to whether the decision to stay in the EU or leave it should be based largely on economics and other issues of self-protection."