Women from a number of major groups in Northern Ireland have today come together to speak out against calls to force abortion on demand on Northern Ireland.
Today they have published an open letter to Theresa May and all UK MPs. The letter emphasises that abortion is a devolved issue and it is for the people of Northern Ireland and their elected representatives to decide on what the law on abortion in Northern Ireland should be.
Full text of open letter to Theresa May and all UK MPs:
Dear Theresa May and all UK MPs,
As women who live in Northern Ireland and represent organisations with thousands of supporters based here, we want to make clear that we believe it is for the people of Northern Ireland and their elected representatives to decide on what the law on abortion in Northern Ireland should be.
We wholeheartedly agreed with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when she said the following on the floor of the House of Commons in response to a question from Stella Creasy MP:
“The hon. Lady knows that abortion is a very sensitive issue, and there are strongly held views on both sides of the debate. It is also a devolved matter, as she has said. She refers to the fact that I am on record as saying that a vote on same-sex marriage, among Government Members, is a matter of conscience, and that is also true for abortion. But it would not be right for the UK Government to undermine the devolution settlement by trying to force on the people of Northern Ireland something that we in Westminster
think is right; the people of Northern Ireland have to make that decision.”
On Friday, the people of the Republic of Ireland made a decision to allow the Oireachtas to decide on what the law on abortion in that jurisdiction should be. While we are deeply saddened by the decision the people of the Republic have taken, we respect the fact it was their right to make the decision they did within Ireland’s constitutional framework. It is now the right of the Oireachtas to determine the laws on abortion in Ireland. The same right should be extended to the people of Northern Ireland and our elected representatives.
The Northern Ireland Assembly considered and voted on the issue of abortion as recently as 2016. A cross-party majority of Unionists and Nationalists voted to uphold the law as it stands. This is a more recent consideration than has taken place in any other parliament in the United Kingdom.
Westminster should not impose legislation on abortion in Northern Ireland. If this does happen, it would have widespread consequences far beyond abortion. What principled reason could be given for the British Government not to interfere in a whole range of different areas such as legacy issues, education, health or justice?
We believe the content of laws should be judged not on their age but by their content. In our view, the law on abortion in Northern Ireland is life-affirming and has shaped our culture in a positive fashion.
Research by Both Lives Matter, closely scrutinized and upheld by the Advertising Standards Authority, has found that 100,000 individuals are alive in Northern Ireland today who would not be if we had introduced the 1967 Abortion Act. As the ASA put it:
“On balance, we concluded that the evidence indicated that there was a reasonable probability that around 100,000 people were alive in Northern Ireland today who would have otherwise been aborted had it been legal to do so.”
Like many in Northern Ireland, we support legislation which upholds the value and worth of both mothers and unborn children.”
Dawn McAvoy, Both Lives Matter
Marion Woods, Life Northern Ireland
Jean Garland, Co-Founder Life Northern Ireland
Dr Roselle Ward, CMF / CARE
Tracy Harkin, Iona Institute Northern Ireland
Mary Lewis, Iona Institute Northern Ireland
Anne Brolly, Cherish All the Children Equally
Dr Anne McCloskey, Cherish All the Children Equally
Lynn Coles, Co-Founder Women Hurt
Dawn McAvoy, co-founder of Both Lives Matter NI said:
“Across the UK this is the time for a better story around pregnancy crisis than assuming that abortion is what women want or need. We would ask that British MPs respect the people of Northern Ireland and their elected representatives. We do not want the social model of Great Britain imposed on us in this area. Progress isn’t the dehumanisation of our unborn children, progress is recognising that there are at least two lives in existence in every pregnancy and standing with us to say that Both Lives Matter.”
Marion Woods, from Life Northern Ireland said:
“If the British Government pursues this agenda they will have the chosen the easy way out and will be ignoring the real need to address the issues in a crisis pregnancy, which are more often than not due to societal systemic failures. Instead of pushing for the cheaper option of abortion, the British Government should respect devolution and the local NI government should immediately commit to addressing support and care for all during pregnancy; focused pathways of care if an unborn baby has been diagnosed with a life-limiting condition; widely available counselling for women in crisis pregnancy, especially those who are victims of sexual crime; affordable childcare for families; flexible working hours for families; provision to support young pregnant women who may still be completing academic studies; accommodation for homeless pregnant women and education for young people around sexual relationships and pregnancy. Women and babies deserve better than abortion because both lives matter. LIFE NI believes it is time to stand with and for women and unborn babies and to advocate for life-affirming options in crisis pregnancy.”