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Government criticised for imposing extreme abortion regime on Northern Ireland

Pro-lifers have strongly criticised the UK Government’s decision to go ahead with imposing an extreme abortion regime on Northern Ireland, despite the return of Stormont earlier this year and the fact that the UK is currently dealing with the coronavirus crisis.

Westminster has issued its new and extreme regulations on abortion services in Northern Ireland, despite 79 per cent of respondents, opposing their introduction. 

Many pro-life groups have expressed great concern and horror at the changes, which include abortion on demand up to 12 weeks, including abortions based on gender.

Other provisions include abortion up to 24 weeks with minimum restrictions that will be tantamount to abortion on demand – similar to the provisions in England and Wales; abortion up to birth for disability – including those with Down Syndrome; and prior to 12 weeks, only one medical professional needs to sign off on the abortion, this can include doctors but also midwives and nurses who can also perform abortions under this condition.  

A senior Economist warned in July 2019 that introducing abortion on demand to Northern Ireland would cost over £5m a year, putting “strain” on an “already over-stretched health service”. The set-up of the service is likely to cost much more in terms of start-up costs and will take vital health service time and resources from fighting the coronavirus.

Right To Life UK has launched a ‘Save Lives: Repeal’ campaign calling on MLAs to bring forward legislation as soon as possible to Stormont to repeal this change to the law which has been imposed on Northern Ireland.

A new poll organised by the University of Liverpool and Britain’s Economic and Social Research Council has shown that 58 per cent of Sinn Féin voters and 54 per cent of DUP voters want their country’s new abortion framework to only allow abortions when the mother’s life is at risk. Only five per cent of all voters support introducing abortion through to 24 weeks, which is in line with what the Government will be introducing to Northern Ireland.

Right To Life UK is calling on the public to visit www.rightolife.org.uk/repeal where they can email their local MLAs calling on them to bring forward legislation as soon as possible to Stormont to repeal this change to the law which has been imposed on Northern Ireland. 

“Despite the fact that Stormont has returned and the UK is in the middle of the Coronavirus crisis, the UK Government are proceeding with imposing an extreme abortion regime on Northern Ireland on 31st March 2020,” Catherine Robinson, of Right To Life UK, told The Catholic Universe.

“To add insult to injury, they have taken what Parliament asked them to impose on Northern Ireland and made it far worse, meaning that Northern Ireland will have one of the most extreme abortion regimes in the world, despite 79 per cent of respondents to the consultation being opposed to any abortion provision in Northern Ireland beyond that which is currently permitted.”

Ms Robinson warned that the extreme abortion regime will legalise sex-selective abortion and introduce abortion for babies with disabilities including cleft lip, club foot and Down Syndrome to birth and will introduce defacto abortion-on-demand to Northern Ireland through to 24-weeks. 

“It will open up abortion provision to midwives and nurses,” she continued. “This goes much further than the law In England and Wales, where abortions can only be performed by a doctor and the Abortion Act requires the approval of two doctors before an abortion can be performed.  

“Abortions will also be available at GPs surgeries throughout Northern Ireland, this again goes further than the law In England and Wales, where  abortions are restricted to hospitals or places approved by the Secretary of State.”

Ms Robinson added: “Introducing abortion on demand to Northern Ireland would cost over £5m a year, putting more pressure on an already stretched health service. Rolling out the service is likely to cost much more in terms of start-up costs and will take vital health service time and resources from fighting the coronavirus.

“We are calling on MLAs to urgently confirm the Department of Health will prioritise dealing with the Coronavirus crisis and not divert any time and resources, which are critical to saving lives during this crisis, to instead introducing this extreme abortion regime across Northern Ireland.

“We are also calling on MLAs to bring forward legislation as soon as possible to Stormont to repeal this extreme change to the law.”

Liz Parsons, Life’s director of advocacy said the charity is “gravely concerned” at the new regulations, warning that “many vulnerable women who will now find themselves on the abortion conveyor belt with little or no alternative support being offered”.

“Having less supervision and restrictions over abortion will leave women in crisis open to exploitation, placing their health and safety at risk,” she told The Catholic Universe.

“As with the 1967 Abortion Act, their provision for abortion for disability up to birth is to introduce discrimination for people who are born with disability. We could not be more disappointed that the government hasn’t listened to the pleas of organisations like ‘Don’t Screen Us Out’ who have lobbied for years to highlight this discriminatory nature of the abortion law.”

Ms Parsons noted that in only “a matter of months” Northern Ireland had “moved from a place both mother and baby were protected, to a situation where there is no protection for the baby at all up to 12 weeks, or up to birth if it has a disability”.

She pointed out that the decision to bring in such “liberal and overreaching” abortion legislation “go above and beyond” what is required by the Northern Ireland Executive Formation Act.

“Not only does this show a complete disregard for the will of the people of Northern Ireland, but it also highlights the government’s persistence in backing the abortion industry instead of offering women real, robust support in pregnancy and beyond. 

“Despite these heinous and destructive new regulations, Life Northern Ireland will still stand with women and offer them the help and support they and their babies deserve. There has never been a greater need for widespread access to perinatal care and practical support for those facing difficult or unexpected pregnancy. We will continue to provide these services to women and make sure they are aware of all the options available to them.”

Dawn McAvoy, of Both Lives Matter, said the issuing of the regulations is “barely believable” given the situation the world is in, as it attempts to deal with the spread of the coronavirus.

“The ground is moving beneath us,” Ms McAvoy told The Catholic Universe. “We are a nation in the midst of a pandemic, grieving for what is to come; the loss of life, security and the futures we imagined. When death comes near, we are forced to face up to the fragility of human life and we hold our loved ones closer than ever. We fear death and we value life.  

“Given this season of grief we face, it seems somewhat fitting, that it is now that the new regulatory framework for abortion provision in Northern Ireland has been announced.

“Tragically, too many abortions happen because sadly women fear life and choose death.”

Ms McAvoy stressed that it is “more important than ever before” that those who recognise and value both lives in every pregnancy, offer better than abortion.

“Women and girls deserve access to all the practical, material and emotional services they need to choose life,” she said. “We all have a responsibility to enable women to choose life and Both Lives Matter will continue, now and into the future to help advocate for women to get the support services they need, for them and their baby.”

Picture: Pro-lifers and pro-abortion activists in the grounds of Stormont. (Niall Carson/PA).

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