The Bishop of Paisley called the First Minister's intervention 'very disappointing'

Bishop John Keenan of Paisley has voiced his objections to Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s plans to offer Northern Irish women NHS abortions.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK where abortion is illegal unless the mother’s life is at risk.

Some women from Northern Ireland choose to fund their own private terminations in other parts of the UK, which can cost from £400 to £2,000.

Bishop Keenan has spoken out against the suggestion made, according to the Scottish Catholic Observer (SCO).

He said: “If the Irish choose to respect life, who are we to say we know better! Apart from anything else it is surely only right to respect the democratic will of the Northern Irish people and the decision of the Northern Ireland Assembly.”

Nicola Sturgeon made the comments at First Minister’s Questions in November.

She said she would speak with NHS Scotland about “what the situation would be right now in terms of accessing safe and legal abortion for women from Northern Ireland within NHS Scotland and whether there’s any improvements that are able to be made.”

Sturgeon added: “I believe that women should have the right to choose, within the limits that are currently set down in law, and that right should be defended. When a woman opts to have an abortion — I stress that that is never, ever an easy decision for any woman — the procedure should be available in a safe and legal way.”

Northern Irish DUP politician Jim Wells told SCO that Sturgeon’s comments were “extremely unhelpful, unwarranted and she’d be better off dealing with her own issues.”

A spokesman from the Scottish Catholic Church added: “In offering to fund abortions for women coming to Scotland, politicians ignore the reality that abortion damages women and destroys a human life.

“Women and girls in a crisis pregnancy need support. There is always a better solution than abortion. Our legislators should be defending the weakest and most vulnerable in society, not exposing them to death.”