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Prolife members of Northern Ireland Assembly remaining defiant

Christian Fernsby |
Prolife members of the Northern Ireland Assembly are remaining defiant despite Tuesday’s rejection of a Bill aimed at introducing an upper time limit for abortion on grounds of non fatal disability.

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Currently children found to have a disability can be aborted up to birth.

Assembly members (MLAs) voted by 45 to 42 to reject the principles of the Severe Fetal Impairment (Amendment) Bill after its consideration stage debate.

The Bill aimed to make it illegal to abort a baby for disabilities such as Down's syndrome, club foot or cleft lip after 24 weeks gestation. DUP MLA Christopher Stalford expressed his disappointment at the result, saying: "That MLAs rejected this, is deeply worrying and sends an awful message about the value the Northern Ireland Assembly places on the life of an unborn disabled child."

However, Mr Stalford said it was "not the end of the road".

"We are a prolife party. Every life must be valued," he said.

Michael Robinson, the Director of Public Affairs for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said that the result only reinforced the need for electoral accountability. He also stressed the importance of SPUC’s legal action against the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland saying:

“This was a very limited Bill, with more symbolic value than real political significance for the pro life cause. Some members of the Assembly who in the past presented themselves as moderate have revealed their true colours by defending the most extreme abortion regime in Europe.

“However, the real threat to the prolife cause in Northern Ireland does not come from the proabortion lobby in Stormont but from the London government. Right now the Secretary of State is attempting to override the devolution settlement by directing the actions of the Northern Ireland Executive.

"Bad politicians in Stormont can be voted out of office by the people but if London is allowed to bypass the devolution settlement on abortion policy then the people of the Province will never be able to restore legal protection for their unborn children. That’s why SPUC has taken the Secretary of State to court. Without electoral accountability, it will be virtually impossible to rebuild a culture of life,” said Mr Robinson.

At more or less the same time, but in an unrelated event, Northern Ireland’s abortion laws were also being discussed by MPs in a debate secured by the Welsh pro-abortion Labour MP, Ms Alex Davies Jones.

The apparent purpose of the debate was to apply pressure on the government to find a way around the impasse within the Northern Ireland Executive. A lack of agreement within the Executive has effectively blocked widespread access to late term abortions in the Province to the frustration of the abortion lobby.

While pro abortion MPs failed to turn up for the debate the rights of unborn children were defended by several Northern Ireland MPs as well as Fiona Bruce and Scott Benton. Speaking in the debate, Carla Lockhart, MP for Upper Bann and a leading member of the All-Party Pro-life Group in the House of Commons, echoed SPUC’s concerns over the growing threat of a democratic deficit on abortion, saying:

“It is a matter of deep regret that this House has sought to impose its will above the devolution settlement. At the heart of devolution must lie respect for the areas of legislation that have been determined to fall within the jurisdiction of devolved authorities. In complex and highly charged matters such as abortion, the benefit of the doubt should always be granted to the devolved authorities that they are capable of managing their own affairs.

Elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly are scheduled for May 2022 but the outcome of SPUC’s legal action, expected in the coming weeks, may decide whether pro-life voters in Northern Ireland will be able to demand accountability from their politicians or exercise any influence over the Province’s radical abortion regime.

SPUC has initiated a judicial review when we challenged the imposition of abortion in Northern Ireland by the Secretary of State, Brandon Lewis MP. Judgment in this case is not expected for several weeks, but as soon as we learn of the outcome, we will be informing our supporters straightaway.


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