MLAs block push to weaken protections for unborn

Thu, 11 Feb 2016

The Christian Institute has welcomed as ‘heartening’ Stormont’s refusal to weaken legal protections for the unborn in Northern Ireland.

Late last night MLAs voted 59 to 40 against amending legislation to allow abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality. They voted 64 to 32 against allowing abortion in cases of sexual crime.

During the debate, politicians from different parties expressed concern about the proposals.

‘Abortion on demand’

DUP MLA Emma Pengelly said medics had advised that there is no such term as “fatal foetal abnormality”, a point echoed by SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly.

Kelly also warned that changing the law in this way could pave the way for “abortion on demand”.

Abortion is not good healthcare for womenCallum Webster

Before the debate, Attorney General John Larkin QC raised concerns that changing the law in this way could breach obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Vital protection

The DUP has asked the Health Minister Simon Hamilton to set up a working group to look into the issues raised by severely life-limiting disabilities.

The Christian Institute’s Northern Ireland Officer Callum Webster said that the existing law, permitting abortion only when the mother’s life is at risk, is a vital protection for women.

“It is heartening that the majority of MLAs have voted to uphold the sanctity of life today at Stormont. There has been a media campaign to undermine the legal protections afforded to our unborn children, but thankfully politicians have resisted that co-ordinated pressure.

Overwhelming opposition

“Abortion is not good healthcare for women. Instead we need to look at improving perinatal hospice care provision for babies with very limited life expectancies”.

Mr Webster added: “The Government’s own consultation last year showed that the public overwhelmingly opposes weaker abortion legislation – in fact less than one per cent favoured changing the law.

“The Assembly has stood up for the people of the Province and against those who wish to sell abortion as a positive choice whilst devaluing the lives of the most vulnerable in our society.

Lasting trauma

“I have had the privilege of meeting many women who have a different story to tell about abortion than the one popularised by the pro-abortion activists.

“Women like Lesley McAskie who was raped at 13 years old. A truly horrific experience but one made even worse by the lasting trauma of aborting her child.

“Women like the late Hilary McDowell – born with multiple disabilities and given a life expectancy of just 3 weeks – who went on to become a highly successful writer and broadcaster.

‘Precious hour’

“Women like Charlene McCabe, whose little girl Myla had Edwards Syndrome, a severe genetic disorder that would have been covered by these amendments. She told me that the time she had with Myla was the most precious hour and 55 minutes of her life – time she would never forget.”

“We know doctors are not infallible and they know that themselves. I have spoken to a couple right here in Northern Ireland who were told their son had a fatal foetal abnormality and were pressured to abort. The diagnosis was completely inaccurate.

“And what about the voice of the unborn? The children whose lives are on the line because someone decides that their life is not worth living. I was able to meet Gary, conceived through the awful trauma of rape but whose mother refused to abort him – a decision for which he is grateful beyond words.

“And these are just a few examples. Today, these people, and many more like them, can take comfort in the knowledge that their voices have been heard and that people like them are recognised for their value as human beings and for the incredible contribution they make to society.”