The Presbyterian Church has slammed the Irish Government's proposals on abortion as "regressive, incompatible with human dignity and morally unacceptable".
In a strongly worded letter read out to all Presbyterian churches in the Republic yesterday, Moderator Dr Noble McNeely advised members to consider carefully the implications of the abortion referendum vote on May 25 and "vote in accordance with their conscience".
The letter was also signed by former Moderator Dr Trevor Morrow, who is based in Dublin, and Rev Trevor Gribben, clerk of the General Assembly.
The senior clergy acknowledged that they cannot direct people to vote in a certain way, but clearly indicated the Church's strong opposition to the proposed legislation.
The Presbyterian Church has concluded that "meaningful protection for the unborn can only be secured if the amendment is retained" - a reference to the eighth amendment of the Republic's Constitution, which recognises the equal right to life of both mother and unborn child, effectively banning terminations.
If the amendment is repealed it will allow the Irish Government to legislate on abortion as it sees fit, most likely up to 12 weeks.
In effect, the Presbyterian Church is advising its members in the Republic to vote 'no'.
The senior clergy also outlined in their letter that Presbyterian representatives had written to all TDs and Senators in January.
The Church at that point had emphasised the value of human life, and the importance of care for women, children and families in times of crisis.
It also urged the politicians "to work for a truly progressive Ireland where the weak and vulnerable, including children in the womb, are cherished and protected".
However, the situation has moved on since then, and the Presbyterian leaders underlined that while there were mixed views in the Church on this controversial subject, the latest proposals are so sweeping that the only way to protect the unborn is to reject the repeal of the eighth amendment.
Presbyterian opposition to a repeal of the amendment is in line with the other major Churches in Ireland.
Both Archbishops of Armagh - Church of Ireland Primate Dr Richard Clarke and Catholic Primate Eamon Martin - have consistently opposed unrestricted access to abortion and have been strongly critical of the latest Irish Government proposals to change the constitution.