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Push is on for abortion legislation in NI

By Susan Gately - 26 April, 2019

Westminster’s Women and Equalities Committee published its report into abortion law in Northern Ireland yesterday.

Speaking on the News at One on RTÉ, Maria Miller, Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee at the House of Commons, said that “in normal circumstances” anything to do with the law on abortion should be dealt with by Northern politicians, “but the fact that there is no executive sitting at the moment, the UK government needs to act, firstly we believe to make sure that human rights are being protected in Northern Ireland and secondly to act on a report that was commissioned by Northern ministers on fatal foetal abnormalities which is calling for a change in the law but because for the last two years there has been no executive, nothing has happened.”

She called for the UK government to take forward a law allowing for abortion in the case of foetal anomaly and clarifying that Northern Ireland doctors could refer patients for free abortions in England.

Responding to her comments, Bernadette Smyth from Precious Life told CatholicIreland.net it was “disingenuous to say they only want to change the law in certain circumstances – they want to decriminalise abortion in all circumstances”. She said that “it’s just a stepping stone towards opening the floodgates to have full access to abortion in Northern Ireland.”

Speaking to RTÉ, Ms Miller said the committee was not dealing with the “ethical, moral issues to do with abortion”, but practical “medical issues” dealing with foetal abnormalities.

The way forward is perinatal care for women who receive the devastating news that the baby has a life limiting disability, countered Ms Smyth, and that’s not happening in Northern Ireland. “There is no clear pathway of support.”

The Northern pro life agency Precious Life had been heavily involved in the inquiry, yet their submissions, along with virtually all other pro-life submissions put forward, were completely ignored.

“There’s no evidence to show that women’s lives are at risk here because we don’t have abortion because of so-called fatal foetal abnormalities. We put that to them in massive statements but they don’t want to know,” she told CatholicIreland.net.

“All those MPs are on record saying they believe abortion should be extended to Northern Ireland and we need to decriminalise our law, so we have a biased attitude to start with. This conclusion, this report, doesn’t shock us in any way,” she said.

Ms Smyth added that the report failed to recognise unborn children – the direct victims of abortion – and their “inherent right to life” as enshrined in international human rights law including the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

There is no human right to abortion, while every person, born and unborn, should be safeguarded in law, policy and practice, she added.

The Precious Life founder insisted that abortion was a “devolved issue” in Northern Ireland and it is “not for any other government – including Westminster – to intervene to change our life-saving laws. Westminster should respect devolution and our democratic process.

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