This week 75 women, under the banner of Both Lives Matter, put their name to a letter sent to every British MP, expressing their concern at the decision taken to fund abortions for women from NI. Because Both Lives Matter imagines a people and place that values the life & health of women and unborn children, and pursues the wellbeing of both, we maintain that women deserve better from government and society than being told our equality is defined in and determined by access to abortion……
We are writing to articulate our concern that some political representatives from Great Britain are at risk of showing clear disregard for the democratically supported and judicially upheld abortion laws of Northern Ireland.
The decision to fund abortions for women from Northern Ireland in England, Scotland & Wales, is ultimately a matter for those legislatures to decide. However, it is ironic that on a day when the Court in Northern Ireland ruled that abortion legislation is a matter for the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Westminster parliament made an overtly political move which potentially undermines and destabilises the impact of our legislation on the people of Northern Ireland – legislation that was actually sanctioned by the democratically elected Northern Ireland Assembly as recently as February last year.
It is of central importance when speaking about challenges to abortion law in NI that we refer to research carried out by Both Lives Matter which shows that 100,000 people are alive today who would not have been if we had enacted the 1967 Abortion Act. This research directly contradicts the claim made by those who would seek to denigrate the role that law plays in protecting life, that law makes no difference to abortion uptake. Rates of abortion in NI are seven times lower than the rest of GB.
While we recognise that some people in Northern Ireland take a different view, the truth is that women (as well as men) in NI, have continually voted for politicians who seek to maintain the law here, which recognises and protects the lives of both women and unborn children. They have voted for individuals and political parties who cross the unionist and nationalist divides precisely because they are “pro-life”, because they know that two lives are in existence in every pregnancy and believe Both Lives Matter.
Women (and men) in Northern Ireland have seen the impact of fifty years of liberalised abortion policies in Great Britain and have consistently stated that they do not want to see legislation similar to the 1967 Abortion Act introduced into Northern Ireland.
So we and others like us defend the law on abortion in Northern Ireland which holds both lives together in a much more balanced way.
The definition of progress and equality for women in Northern Ireland presented by those who advocate for abortion as a “choice”, is to have the same access to abortion as women in the rest of the UK. We reject this definition. Progress and equality should never be framed as dependent upon a “right” to end the lives of our unborn children. Instead, because Both Lives Matter, we see real progress being made when we, as women, are enabled in our pregnancy and motherhood.
We do not doubt that soon there will be further attempts to weaken abortion law in Northern Ireland from outside of our borders.
Therefore we, a representative group of ‘pro-both’ women who seek the life, health and dignity of women and unborn children in every pregnancy, are writing to you to ask that you stand for and safeguard the principle of devolution. Abortion is a devolved issue in Northern Ireland. We ask you to respect devolution and oppose any attempt to undermine the impact of our devolved legislation.
We are writing to ask that you stand for and safeguard the independence of the Courts. On Friday 30 June the Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland reaffirmed that there is no human right to abortion. They found that the law here (which does allow for abortion in limited circumstances) is legitimate and proportional and within the margin of appreciation accorded to member states by the European Court of Human Rights. They also ruled that abortion is a matter for the Northern Ireland Assembly. We ask you to respect the separation of powers and avoid political actions which undermine, or stray into, judicial territory.
Rather than repeat the tired rhetoric that women’s rights equal abortion rights, we would invite those from outside of our jurisdiction to look at Northern Ireland with a fresh perspective. We see a better way than abortion and because Both Lives Matter we believe we can offer more to women, their families and society than abortion.
Both Lives Matter Campaign”