K.V. Turley is the Register’s U.K. correspondent. He writes from London.
Northern Ireland continues to be the main target for British and Irish pro-abortionists. Unable to shift the Province’s elected representatives, abortion advocates are now employing different tactics.
The first move came on June 5, 2018, when the British House of Commons had an emergency debate on the issue of abortion provision in Northern Ireland. This debate came about on account of the recent referendum in the Irish Republic. During it, politicians in Britain called for Northern Ireland’s strict abortion laws to be overturned. Pro-abortion campaigners were at pains to stress that Northern Ireland has the harshest criminal penalty for abortion anywhere in Europe. In theory, a sentence of life imprisonment can be handed to any woman who undergoes an unlawful abortion.
Although technically, the recent Irish referendum was a domestic matter in a foreign jurisdiction, the result has given fuel to calls for a change in Northern Ireland’s abortion laws. Since the Irish referendum result, British Prime Minister Theresa May has come under increasing pressure to scrap existing abortion laws in Northern Ireland. Pro-abortion groups and their Parliamentary allies at Westminster called for changes to what they termed the "anomalous" situation pertaining to abortion provision in Northern Ireland compared to that in the rest of the UK. The British 1967 Abortion Act permitted abortion in certain circumstances, but this Act wasnever extended to Northern Ireland.
Since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement some degree of self-government has been restored to Northern Ireland’s locally elected assembly. One of the issues devolved to that assembly was abortion. Within the current assembly there is a majority – mostly comprised of those within the Democratic Unionist Party – who are opposed to British abortion regulations coming to Northern Ireland.
For many, the issue of abortion is merely a welcome chance for political point scoring against the DUP. For others, however, the Republic’s referendum has given much needed oxygen to the political propaganda of the pro-abortion lobby in Northern Ireland and its allies in Britain. The issue of abortion is now framed solely with reference to DUP opposition, as if outside that party there was no support for existing laws on abortion within Northern Ireland.
Therefore, it comes as no surprise that after a recent successful pro-life cross-party, cross-community lobby of Westminster by women from across Northern Ireland, there appeared the latest move to attempt to by pass the citizens of Northern Ireland and impose a liberal abortion regime upon them.
More than 170 politicians from the U.K. and Ireland have signed a letter urging the UK government to change Northern Ireland's abortion laws. In the letter, dated June 22 2018 and published in The Sunday Times, these Irish and British politicians say that the Prime Minister cannot continue to argue that abortion is a devolved matter.
British Labour MP Stella Creasy coordinated the cross-party letter to Prime Minister Theresa May and her Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar. It was signed by 173 parliamentarians from across the UK and Ireland, including: Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston, as well as Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald and the party's vice president Michelle O'Neill.
A response to this by pro-life politicians from UK and Ireland has also been published. The full text of the cross-nation letter:
Dear Prime Minister and Dear Taoiseach [Irish Premier],
We are aware that a letter calling on you to use the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference (BIIGC) to consider the issue of abortion in Northern Ireland is currently being circulated among British and Irish parliamentarians for signature. The letter contains a number of inaccuracies and fundamentally misunderstands the purpose of the BIIGC.
As you know the remit of the BIIGC is to consider non-devolved issues related to Northern Ireland and questions of mutual concern between the British and Irish Governments. The BIIGC has no function in considering a matter internal to Northern Ireland. This means that abortion is not within the scope of the BIIGC because abortion law and policy is devolved fully to the Northern Ireland Assembly.
It is alarming to see politicians so ready to impose their views on a place that most of them do not represent, (and without regard to the wider political ramifications), a fact that is highlighted by their complete failure to understand the basic ground rule of the BIIGC as it relates to the governance of Northern Ireland.
We would be better served if colleagues demonstrated the same passion for understanding the governance of Northern Ireland as they did for looking for constitutionally inappropriate opportunities to foist their opinions on it.
Baroness Nuala O’Loan DBE MRIA
Fiona Bruce MP
Carla Lockhart MLA
Senator Rónán Mullen
Rt. Hon Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP
Prof the Lord Alton of Liverpool
Predictably, so far, this letter has received little by way of media attention.
After the 2017 British General Election, Prime Minster May’s Conservative Government has no overall majority in the House of Commons. She needs the support of the 10 DUP Members of Parliament to ensure that her administration in London does not collapse. For this reason alone, no matter how much pressure is exerted, it seems that abortion law in Northern Ireland shall remain a devolved issue – for now, at least.
Away from the media spotlight on Northern Ireland, a piece of legislation is quietly making its way through Parliament. The organizer of the latest pro-abortion letter campaign, Stella Creasy, had earlier tabled an amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill currently before the U.K.’s House of Commons. The proposed Creasy amendment is not just about abortion provision in Northern Ireland though. By removing the criminal law which underpins current British abortion legislation — Ss.58 and 59 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861 — abortion itself will be decriminalized throughout the United Kingdom, paving the way for what Creasy describes as “a modern medical approach to abortion across the UK.”
While the 1967 Abortion Act legalized abortion only within certain narrowly defined circumstances, and abortion outside these limits remains a criminal act; this latest legislative move aims to decriminalize abortion across the UK. This push for decriminalisation is part of an ideological attempt to re-categorise abortion solely as a medical procedure with no ethical difference to any routine medical operation. In effect, decriminalization would remove any legal protection from all unborn children.
The on-going and loud campaign aimed at Northern Ireland is just a part of a wider agenda for the United Kingdom as a whole, nothing less than the wholesale decriminalization of abortion throughout these islands.