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Catholic bishop and the DUP sing from the same hymn sheet when it comes to their opposition to abortion

Editor's Viewpoint

It is hardly surprising that a Catholic bishop should criticise Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon for suggesting that Northern Ireland women could access abortions on the National Health Service in Scotland. The Church's teaching is that all life is precious, no matter what the circumstances of its creation, and offering women an incentive to come to Scotland for a termination was bound to attract a sharp retort.

The irony is that Bishop John Keenan's views are much more akin to those of Northern Ireland's First Minister than to the leader of the devolved government in his own country.

There are many in Northern Ireland who will applaud his intervention, especially his comments that the will of people here on this issue - as expressed through a majority of their public representatives - should be respected and that Nicola Sturgeon's offer inferred that she knew better.

Abortion is illegal in Northern Ireland unless the mother's life or her physical and mental wellbeing is at serious risk. There are those who argue that our public representatives - Sinn Fein is the only major party which backs abortion - are out of touch with changing opinion in the province and, in any case, the reality is that hundreds of women travel from our shores to England and Wales for terminations each year where they have to pay for their procedures.

Yet we continue to elect public representatives who hold conservative views.

A further test of the politicians' attitudes will come in the new year when a Private Member's Bill by former Justice Minister, David Ford, allowing abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality, begins its passage through the Assembly.

Whatever the outcome, it is clear that the views of the DUP, the largest party here, and the Catholic Church - as well as the mainstream Protestant churches - coincide on abortion.

Coincidentally, even recent suggestions that the Pope may visit Armagh in 2018 has gained a broadly warm welcome from the reformed churches.

Perhaps they share more than they think.

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