The Archbishop of Armagh has described as “ideological colonisation” plans by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to make it compulsory for all post-primary schools in Northern Ireland to teach students about abortion provision and where it can be accessed.

The Primate of All Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin joined with the other Catholic bishops in Northern Ireland in describing the move by Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris MP as extremely radical.

In a statement the bishops said: “Having already imposed some of the most radical abortion laws in the world on the people of Northern Ireland, without their consent, the secretary of state now seems determined to impose an ideologically biased view of abortion on all schools, irrespective of parental rights or school ethos.”

They added: “This is radical legislation the British government doesn’t even impose on schools in Britain, where the right of parents to be involved in decisions about such ethical and pastoral issues is fully respected. There is no such thing as a neutral view on abortion. There is no such thing as a value-free or ethically neutral approach to the question of when life begins and when we have a duty to protect and care for all human life. These are matters subject to sincerely held differences of opinion across the world.”

The bishops called on the Secretary of State and the NI Human Rights Commission (which backs the Government’s decision) to “move away from their tendency to ideological colonisation in this area and trust parents, teachers, young people and local politicians in Northern Ireland to balance the rights and responsibilities involved.”