A Northern Irish Minister who compared abortion levels to the Holocaust has been criticized by pro-choice campaigners.

During an Assembly debate, DUP junior minister Jonathan Bell said the Western world has “destroyed more viable human life” than Hitler put through the gas chambers in World War II, the Belfast Telegraph reports.

Bell, who works for the office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister also asked for the “forgiveness of God” after MLA’s rejected attempts to outlaw private abortion clinics in Northern Ireland.

Abortion is currently illegal in Northern Ireland, unless a woman’s life is at risk. But medical abortions up to nine weeks are available at the Marie Stopes family private clinic in Belfast, which opened in October amid massive controversy.

Bell asked MLAs last Tuesday: “Is it not the case that we in the West should hang our heads in abject shame? We have to face the truth that, in the West, we have destroyed more viable human life than Hitler ever put into a gas chamber.”

He added: “May God forgive us for what we have done in this House today — the God who said he knew us and formed us in our mother's womb. I believe that those boys and girls who are in their mother's womb are being let down.”

Dr Audrey Simpson, director of the Family Planning Association in Northern Ireland criticized his choice of words.

“I think it is unfortunate that in Northern Ireland, unlike the other legislative structures in the rest of the country, we cannot have a debate without this offensive language.

“It is also disrespectful of women who have gone through this because of their own personal circumstances which may include rape, incest or because they have been told their pregnancy is not viable.”

Alliance for Choice group spokeswoman, Goretti Horgan said Bell’s comments have caused anger.

“I find it incredibly insulting to the tens of thousands of women from Northern Ireland who have had abortions, and for reasons which are ethical, and about their own specific family circumstances.

“It is particularly insulting also to those, and there are some from the Jewish tradition living in Northern Ireland who may have family who went through the Holocaust.

“To compare the suffering of people who went through the Holocaust, who were sentient, fully realised human beings, with women who are refusing life, not taking life but refusing it, is just incredible.”

Northern Ireland minister Jonathan Bell has been criticized by pro-choice campaigners after comparing abortion levels to the Holocaust.