A coalition of elected officials and pro-life leaders from the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland came together in Stormont, near Belfast, today to show a united stand against any efforts to legalize abortion in either country. They called for the upholding of the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act, of which sections 58 and 59 prohibit abortion in Ireland and Northern Ireland. Participants included a coalition partnership of MLA and Dáil elected officials, Jim Wells, Jim Walsh, Danny Kennedy, Paul Givan, Pat Ramsey MLA, Ian Paisley Jnr MP, Jeffrey Donaldson MP; former MEPs Dana Rosemary Scallon and Kathy Sinnott, and Bernadette Smyth, Director of Precious Life, among others. “There is no ‘border’ in this battle to protect Ireland’s unborn children. The Offences Against the Person Act is an all-Ireland safeguard against abortion,” said Smyth.
The leaders called on the governments to uphold the current law and protect the most vulnerable—unborn children in the womb-- from outside pressures to legalize abortion. Senator Jim Walsh from the Republic called abortion barbaric and Jeffrey Donaldson, MP from Northern Ireland, said the first duty of a politician is to protect the vulnerable and no one is more vulnerable than the unborn. Former MEP, Dana Scallon, declared, "When you talk about the basic foundation stones of any society of any age, protecting the dignity of the human person, protecting life at all stages, that never changes. We need to know that when we open that door for exceptional cases, then it's going to be an avalanche of abortions.”
SPUC reports that Ian Paisley Jr., MP, stated that murder had been taken from the streets of Northern Ireland and it would be a great shame if it was to give way to the killing of the unborn. Former MEP Kathy Sinnott said that politicians must move out of their comfort zones to defend the right to life and if a woman’s life is in danger then she should be in a hospital and not an abortion clinic.
The united front against abortion comes in the midst of a new debate on abortion in Northern Ireland, brewing since Marie Stopes International opened an abortion clinic in Belfast last year. Concern was heightened by growing awareness of MSI’s practice of performing illegal abortions around the world. A recent amendment tabled by unionist and nationalist MLAs sought to ban abortions in private clinics now faces strong opposition from Sinn Fein, despite the party’s previous pro-life assertions. The amendment, sponsored by DUP’s Paul Givan and SDLP’s Alban Maginness would legally permit abortion only within the National Health Service (NHS) for existing legal exceptions and would bar the MSI clinic from performing abortion. Four months ago, the Deputy First Minister insisted that Sinn Fein was “not in favour of abortion” and opposed attempts to liberalize abortion laws, however, now the party has said it opposes the amendment and will call for members to vote the party line. The vote, which was expected next Tuesday, has now been pushed to a later unspecified date.