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Presbyterian Church wasn't always anti-abortion: Ford

By Staff Reporter

Published 21/10/2016

Former Alliance Party leader David Ford
Former Alliance Party leader David Ford

Former Alliance Party leader David Ford has claimed that the Presbyterian Church has shifted its view on abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality.

The South Antrim MLA recently submitted a Private Member's Bill to the Assembly in a bid to introduce reform.

If passed, pregnant women in Northern Ireland who are carrying a foetus that would be unable to survive outside the womb would be allowed to have an abortion.

It is currently illegal across the province for a termination to be carried out on the grounds of such a diagnosis.

Mr Ford's move follows a previous failed attempt to change the law when he was the Justice Minister.

His church, however, has said that "the taking of a child's life in general cases of fatal foetal abnormality cannot be justified".

Mr Ford's legislative plan comes just days after he was ousted as an elder from Second Donegore Presbyterian Church near Templepatrick over his support for same-sex marriage.

Mr Ford said that he was removed because the other elders had refused to work with him.

A spokesman for the Presbyterian Church in Ireland said "there had been a breakdown in relationships between him and other members".

It added that because of that it had "become impossible for Mr Ford to satisfactorily discharge his duty as a ruling elder".

Asked if his attempts to legislate for abortion,in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities would create further division between himself and his church, Mr Ford claimed the Presbyterian Church had held differing views in the past on the matter.

"The position is quite clear, that at different times there have been slightly different views expressed by a number of the Protestant churches," he told the BBC's Good Morning Ulster programme

"The Catholic Church was consistent in its response when the Department of Justice carried out its consultation.

"Different views have come at different times from the Presbyterian Church, and indeed also from the Methodist Church and Church of Ireland there has been an understanding around issues of fatal foetal abnormality."

On the Presbyterian church's view that there can be no justification for abortion, Mr Ford explained: "I remember being told by a former moderator that he did not think that was the view when he was moderator.

"So I am making the point that the view has changed at different times within the Presbyterian church."

Mr Ford added: "I made a promise that I would seek to resolve the issue of women who are faced with the most traumatic circumstances possible.

"I am not seeking to force women who do not want an abortion into having an abortion, but seeking to provide those women who feel that they can't carry to full term the opportunity to have an abortion."

"That is what I believe amounts to compassion," the former Justice Minister said.

The Presbyterian Church was asked to respond and instead referred to its already stated position on the matter.

The church previously restated its position that "human life begins at conception and that from that moment the human embryo should be treated in a manner in accordance with full human dignity".

The Presbyterian Church also stated that at its general assembly in June, it had called on the Governments of both Northern Ireland and the Republic to ensure that women received the best care possible around the birth period.

Belfast Telegraph

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