Dawn McAvoy

Both Lives Matter | Dawn McAvoy

My name is Dawn and on behalf of us all I want to thank you for coming today.

We are here because Both Lives Matter. Because we believe that from conception to natural death every human being has inherent dignity, value and worth, regardless of location, size, gender, ability, health or circumstances of conception.

Both Lives Matter launched in January this year with an aim to reframe the debate and rehumanise the conversation around pregnancy crisis and abortion, because we don’t accept that progress for Northern Ireland, should be measured by access to abortion.

We just have to look at the rest of the United Kingdom to see what pro-abortion policy leads to. In fifty years abortion rates in Great Britain have tripled, to a level that would have been undreamed of in the 1960’s. There have been over 8 million abortions, one in three women will have had an abortion by the age of 45 and for every one abortion there are four live births. Fifty years of abortion access has led to over 90% of babies, diagnosed in utero with Down Syndrome, being aborted. And recent attempts to ensure equality for girl babies and babies diagnosed with disability, have been rejected.

Now, in 2017 we are told that it is a human right to end a human life. Abortion access has become the standard by which women achieve autonomy and equality. This is indefensible.

When over 50 pc of women report discrimination in the workplace because of their pregnancy and motherhood, we need to look again at the message we are sending to women and about women, and at the outworking of policies that present pregnancy and parenting as the preventative factors.

Because Both Lives Matter we can and must offer better than abortion. How do we, “do justice” to the lives of both the woman and preborn child? As a start, in our conversation, we need to begin to move from trust to truth.

As a society we must talk about all the circumstances that lead women to a point of pregnancy crisis; we need to be honest about what a pregnancy is and that means we need to be informed about gestational development, and admit to what an abortion is and what it does.

Because Both Lives Matter we need to see all of this within the bigger picture. It can be too easy to jump into complex and contentious debates and lose sight of the wider context. Every human being, woman, man and child has intrinsic value. We hold this to be self-evident. Our human value and humanity is held together in common and expressed through our relationships as family, friends and community.

The simple but profound principle that Both Lives Matter and the values of human dignity and relationship, implied within it, act as our guide-rails as we approach the wider social context in which abortion is presented as a solution.

In short, we contend that abortion cannot be looked at in a vacuum. A holistic approach is essential before, during and after pregnancy. This can lead to better services, law and a culture which affirms the dignity and relationships held between women, unborn children and the wider community.

We are creating a better story of the kind of community we see emerging when both lives matter.

You may not be aware of polling results announced just a week ago. That polling carried out by ComsRes and commissioned by Where Do They Stand? was the most extensive done in GB in over a decade and revealed that the majority of women in England, Scotland and Wales are in favour of restrictions and increased regulation on abortion. This is striking in revealing the disparity between

what the public want and the commonly heard pro-choice and pro-abortion narrative that pushes ever more abortion.

Unlike the rest of GB perhaps we in Northern Ireland have been “cushioned” from the impact of pro-abortion policies and their inevitable outworking. When abortion is normalised as a choice, as this polling shows, many women do not see that as best care for women and unborn children.

Opinion polls are interesting and helpful as a social barometer, but they can swing and change. If we believe that the lives of unborn children and women matter, whether the polls are with us or against, then we must work to deliver services and create a culture that enables life-affirming choices. Our guiding principle is simple and good for everyone in society – both lives matter.

In line with those results what you will hear from us today is a vision for better for Northern Ireland than more abortion. We imagine a place that values the life and health of both women and unborn children and that is committed to enabling both.

It will take time to address the depth of the issues involved and this will require a breadth of voice. You see in front of you today a representation of that voice. Both Lives Matter is a collaborative movement of individuals and organisations that crosses the political and religious divides that are all too common in our society.

Today we want to briefly share what motivates each of us, why we all believe that Both Lives Matter and why this issue is bigger than any one person or organisation. You will hear four statements from each of the panellists and then as time allows we will take questions from the floor. I want to make clear at this point that as this is – another – election season we will not be commenting on any individual political party or their policies so please, to avoid rebuff, don’t ask.

Thank you.