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Church Leaders back politicians' anti-abortion letter

The leaders of Northern Ireland's four main churches have written to all Westminster MP's in support of local political leaders in asserting that the law on abortion here should be a matter for the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Cardinal Seán Brady, Rev Roy Cooper, Dr John Finlay and Archbishop Alan Harper ask that 'MPs take account of the Northern Ireland political parties, and indeed of the people of Northern Ireland, by voting against any amendments concerning abortion legislation in Northern Ireland.'

The full text of the letter is as follows:

To all Members of Parliament

Dear Member,

Re: Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill

As leaders of the four main churches in Northern Ireland we wish to support the four leaders of the main political parties in asserting that the law on abortion here should be a matter for the Northern Ireland Assembly.

We feel it is important for the government to respect the wishes of the people of Northern Ireland and allow locally elected MLAs to take the lead on this issue, especially in light of the debate on abortion that took place in October 2007 when all of the main parties in Northern Ireland signalled their opposition to an extension of the 1967 Abortion Act. We would ask that, on this issue, MPs take account of the Northern Ireland political parties, and indeed of the people of Northern Ireland, by voting against any amendments concerning abortion legislation in Northern Ireland.

Last year, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland indicated that he felt the Northern Ireland Assembly is the best forum for discussion of these questions. We wholeheartedly agree with this position and ask that you make every effort to ensure that any future changes to the law on abortion in Northern Ireland are solely the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

With our best wishes for your work and deliberations.

Yours sincerely,

+Alan Harper +Seán Cardinal Brady

John Finlay Roy Cooper