As my Parliamentary colleagues will have now realised, the Government has been ambushed with abortion amendments to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill.
Here are ten reasons why MPs should oppose these damaging, anti-democratic and opportunistic proposals.
1. Northern Ireland considered change in 2016 and clearly rejected it.
The Northern Ireland Assembly was the most recent UK Parliament to consider abortion. It voted against any change by a margin of voted 59 to 40. This represented rejection on Northern Ireland’s own democratic terms, not as a part of a proposal from Westminster, with all the added controversy that brings.
2. The old law = bad law argument is a ridiculous fallacy.
The core argument made in favour of these amendments is that the law governing abortion is old, and should therefore be changed. This is self-evidently preposterous. The same Act of Parliament that criminalises abortion also criminalises murder and manslaughter. Should we repeal those, too? Magna Carta is pretty old. Shall we do away with that? Let’s have a proper debate about what these changes would mean, not rely on deception, transparent sloganeering, and fallacious rhetoric.
3. If anything is old and obsolete, it is the 1967 Abortion Act.
The Abortion Act permits abortion up to 24 weeks – double the EU 12 week average. This law was formed when we knew comparatively little about fetal development. It allows abortion for almost any reason beyond the point at which babies can survive independently outside of the womb. It is a law which flies in the face of reason and contradicts everything we now know about the humanity of the unborn child. There is a reason why socially liberal countries such as Denmark impose a 12 week limit, and a reason why Jeremy Hunt supports such a limit. Our law is brutal as it stands, and if there is to be any reform, it should be focused on bringing our upper time limit in line with the EU average.
4. It would impose an extreme abortion law upon NI – likely the most extreme in Europe.
The 24 week time-limit comes from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990. For abortion, this doesn’t apply to Northern Ireland. So, if these proposals succeed, abortion would be allowed for any reason up to 28 weeks and possibly beyond – and let it be remembered here that at 38 weeks pregnant women are at term. Unlike England and Wales, there would be no requirement for doctor’s approval. I cannot think of anything more retrograde, more “medieval” than a law which allows for the taking of human life more than two thirds into pregnancy.
5. Disabled people would be particularly exposed by this change…
As research consistently demonstrates, the majority of late-term abortions are performed on disabled children. These changes would remove any scrutiny around the motivations for the abortion, giving carte blanche to disability-selective abortion. Already in England and Wales only ten per cent of babies with Down Syndrome diagnosed in the womb make it to term. 90 per cent are selectively aborted. Northern Ireland has a very different approach to disability. Disability-selective abortion for Down’s syndrome is not permitted and there is a culture of welcoming and supporting people with this disability rather than eliminating them.
6. …As figures for Northern Ireland confirm.
This is reflected directly in figures available from the Department of Health in Northern Ireland showing that there were 52 children with Down’s syndrome born, in the same year only one child from Northern Ireland with Down’s syndrome was aborted in England and Wales. Does Northern Ireland want a law which permits the eradication of disability?
7. These opportunistic proposals show contempt for the devolution settlement and due process.
These proposals are using Northern Ireland as a pretext to liberalise the law across England and Wales. Leaving aside the question whether or not these amendments should be considered in scope for this Bill (which is highly debatable), it is indisputably the case that such serious social change deserves appropriate consideration and appropriate debate. This is especially the case when the change envisaged is of such a significant and dramatic nature. In the Irish Republic, a referendum took place. In England, the Abortion Act debates ran all night on a number of occasions. This Bill will complete all of its Commons stages in two days. This is clearly and obviously wrong. It is an arrogant abuse of the legislative process, dreamed up by people who want to avoid the usual safeguards, presumably knowing that this change would expose that 100,000 people are live today in Northern Ireland who would not be if it had the same laws as the rest of the UK.
8. These changes would permit sex-selective abortion.
As explained above, decriminalising abortion would remove any requirement for the person seeking the abortion to give reasons for seeking it. So those wanting boys rather than girls are free to go ahead and terminate their female pregnancy. Anyone who has been through the 12 week scan (which includes the driving force behind these proposals, who is currently pregnant) knows that the gender can be revealed early on through chromosomal tests. At the 12 week scan they see that what is growing inside them is not an alien or merely an ancillary part of their body. As the midwife says during the scan: “here is your baby”.
9. This move would set the devolution settlement back.
There has been no consultation with those who live in the part of the UK that these changes would affect. The people of Northern Ireland have been left out of this entirely, except via some polling commissioned by pro-abortion organisations with a largely unknown pollster that is not a British Polling Council member, and which has not released the data tables from the survey or revealed the questions asked in the poll. This is a project of the Westminster elite backed by the well-funded pro-abortion community.
10. Even if Northern Ireland wanted abortion reform, these proposals go too far.
Even if it were the case that Northern Ireland would tolerate some abortion reform imposed from Westminster – which this ComRes poll contradicts – they would be going from the most pro-life country in the EU to the most liberal abortion law in the EU overnight on the basis of rushed legislation. Most people in Northern Ireland do not understand what is about to be done to them. This is not only offensive to the constitutional settlement, but to the principles of democracy.