Bishops in furious row over abortion conference
A FURIOUS row between the Catholic Church and a family-planning organisation has erupted over the staging of a conference for doctors on abortion.
Catholic bishops yesterday described the two-day event as undermining the rights of children in the womb and an affront to "the consistently pro-life position of the majority of people on this island".
However, the Family Planning Association (FPA) said the conference is aimed at providing the best care for women who have abortions and it is a reality that thousands of women from both north and south Ireland go through the procedure every year. The All-Ireland Conference on Abortion and Clinical Practice opened last night in the Slieve Donard Hotel in Newcastle, Co Down.
Some 60 medical practitioners -- about 20 of whom are from the south -- are taking part in the conference, which is organised by the UK-based FPA.
In a statement yesterday, the Catholic bishops of Northern Ireland said they deplored the staging of the conference.
"It is an attempt to normalise what is unacceptable. We appeal to all those who cherish the inherent dignity of human life in all its stages to join us in expressing opposition to this event," the statement said.
They said one of the objectives of the conference was for clinicians to be trained as to how abortion services are provided and questioned how the civil authorities should respond "to such an event in a jurisdiction where abortion is illegal in most circumstances".
Audrey Simpson, director of the FPA in Northern Ireland, said between 70 and 90 abortions are performed in Northern Ireland every year where the mother's physical and mental health is at grave risk.
Abortion is not legal in the Republic of Ireland except where there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother, including a risk arising from a threat of suicide.
The conference is aimed at giving clinicians the latest information on abortions, Ms Simpson said.
"The reality of it is that women in Ireland, north and south, have abortions. They are no different from women anywhere else in Europe and, like women in the rest of Europe, are entitled to the best healthcare and this conference will see that they receive the best healthcare," she said.
Substantial security is already in place at the hotel as it is also the site of the North-South Parliamentary Forum Conference.