A high-profile Democratic Unionist and former Stormont health minister has compared the abortion regime in Great Britain to the Holocaust.

Jim Wells claimed the numbers murdered by the Nazis in concentration camps were comparable to the number of terminations since abortion laws were relaxed in England, Scotland and Wales.

The vocal anti-abortion campaigner made the remarks amid growing calls for reform of the law in Northern Ireland, where terminations are banned in all but extreme circumstances.

Mr Wells was taking part in a radio debate on BBC Radio Ulster’s Nolan Show when a commentator with an opposing view accused the DUP of characterising pro-choice voices in British politics as “like the Nazis” and claiming there was “something worse than the Holocaust happening in England”.

The South Down Assembly Member replied: “I don’t think he’s too far wrong.”

Mr Wells, who recently lost the DUP whip after criticising the leadership, went on to say: “9.2 million people have had their lives terminated through abortion in Britain since 1967.

“That is actually more than the number of lives murdered in the gas and concentration camps of Auschwitz and Buchenwald.

“It is a ghastly situation – we are killing human beings. These are sentient human beings who have every right to life, who have every right to be protected.”

The politician later clarified that his comparison to the Nazis was only related to the “numbers” involved.

“I think the numbers are a fair comparison because these human beings have been killed,” he said.

The debate on Northern Ireland’s restrictions on abortion has intensified after citizens in the Irish Republic voted by a landslide margin last month to liberalise the state’s laws.

An emergency debate on the issue was held in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

The Government has resisted calls to step in and legislate amid the ongoing powersharing impasse in Northern Ireland, insisting that any decision on abortion in the region has to be taken by locally elected politicians at Stormont.

DUP leader Arlene Foster said Mr Wells had been wrong to make the comparison.

“I don’t agree with that,” she told UTV.

“I think it’s the wrong use of language and again it brings us back to the fact that this is a very emotive issue and people need to be aware of that when they are discussing it.”

Mrs Foster was also asked about comments by DUP MP Sammy Wilson during Tuesday’s Westminster debate when he talked about foetuses being “discarded and put in a bin”.

“This is hugely emotive subject and it is a very sensitive subject and I think everybody needs to bear that in mind when they are making comments in relation to this issue,” Mrs Foster responded.

“That doesn’t take away from the fact that people feel very strongly about this on both sides of the argument.

“But you know the debate has to be had and I believe the debate should be had in the Assembly, that’s where it should happen.”