Church leaders have raised their opposition to what they say is the prospect of an almost unregulated abortion regime being imposed on Northern Ireland from Westminster next month.  

They have called for the restoration of devolved government at Stormont before 21 October in order to find a Northern Ireland solution for what they say are "challenging issues".

The abortion services provided in England, Scotland and Wales are illegal in Northern Ireland.  

However, legislation passed by MPs in Westminster earlier this year means abortion is on course to be decriminalised in Northern Ireland after midnight on 21 October.

The British government will then be obliged to put in place regulations for abortion services before 1 April next year. 

The leaders of the Church of Ireland, the Methodist Church in Ireland, the Catholic Church and the Presbyterian Church have issued a statement, raising their concerns over what is planned.

While this is a joint statement from all the main churches in Ireland, yesterday the Catholic Primate of All Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin also called on politicians to return to Stormont to prevent the introduction of legislation that will legalise abortion in Northern Ireland.

The Archbishop said that the democratic process had been "cynically manipulated" in Westminster to remove "all explicit protections for unborn children up to 28 weeks".

The churches have joined together to call for an end to the political stalemate that has kept Stormont closed for almost three years.  

This is one contentious subject, with a very real deadline of 21 October, that is putting pressure on political parties to find the means to restore devolved government. 

The church leaders said: "Our Northern Ireland political parties have it in their own hands to do something about this.

"They all need to take risks and make the compromises necessary to find an accommodation that will restore the devolved institutions.

"We are calling on the Secretary of State to recall the Assembly before 21 October to provide an opportunity for the parties to take the necessary steps both to prevent these laws coming onto effect and to find a better Northern Ireland solution for these challenging issues.

"Finally, we hope to meet with the Secretary of State to discuss with him our concerns, concerns that we share with a significant number of our fellow citizens of all faiths and none."

Without an against-the-odds-agreement to revive Stormont, Northern Ireland could be on course to have abortion provisions more liberal than those introduced after a referendum in the Republic last year.