BELFAST, October 12, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – If politicians and legal authorities do not move very swiftly, abortion will become a daily reality in Northern Ireland, whether the procedure remains a criminal code offense or not, pro-life activists have warned. Liam Gibson, development officer for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children in Northern Ireland, told LifeSiteNews.com that the situation is “very grim.” He said that despite the law clearly prohibiting the killing of unborn children, the immensely wealthy international abortion machine could simply steamroller over the law.
But it seems as if there is little political will to act decisively. One official, whom Gibson declined to name, said that the government can do nothing until official statistics show a jump in the abortion rate, a process which can take two or three years.
Gibson and other pro-life activists fear that once the facility is opened and operating, scheduled for October 18th, it will have opened the legal floodgates.
Gibson said he believes the only hope is an immediate court injunction to stop the opening. Once Marie Stopes begins to operate, he fears, the process will be under way, and even if charges are laid the outcome will be inevitable.
“Even if there were a prosecution here,” he said, “and it were successful they could appeal all the way to England’s Supreme Court and that would be end of the abortion law in Northern Ireland.”
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Observers around the world were shocked when Marie Stopes, the international abortion giant, announced this week that it will be opening a shop front abortion facility in Belfast. They said they will offer chemical or “medical terminations” at a cost of £450. They have claimed in their press release that they will be acting “within the current legal framework for abortion” by offering abortions only within the first nine weeks of pregnancy.
Despite the claims by some news media and Marie Stopes, however, abortion in Northern Ireland is not legal.
The provisions of the UK’s Abortion Act 1967 were never fully applied to the province, and abortion remains an offense in the criminal code under the Offenses Against the Person Act of 1861 and the Infant Life Preservation Act. It is possible for doctors to avoid prosecution for abortion under strictly defined conditions. These exceptions permit doctors to make an intervention only if the mother’s life is threatened. Case law has established that such situations have to be serious impediments, a life-changing, totally permanent, or very long-term event.
Gibson said, however, that such circumstances “in a first world country are extremely rare”. Ectopic pregnancies, the only common life-threatening condition for which medical science is not yet able to offer an option that saves the life of the child, cannot be treated with chemical, or even surgical abortion. The removal of a fallopian tube that has been implanted by the embryo is not defined by medical science as an abortion.
How then did Marie Stopes simply decide to hang out their abortion shingle in Belfast? Gibson replied, “Everybody knows the law, the politicians and the pro-lifers, even the pro-abortionists know the law. Effectively they’re just ignoring it and going ahead anyway.”
“What people don’t understand about Marie Stopes,” he said, “is that they don’t pretend to be nice, law abiding people. These are people whose business it is to go into other countries and break the law. They have gone into African countries where abortion is illegal, and where no one wants abortion, and simply done it.”
“They’ve been talking about doing this for 20 years,” Gibson said. “Marie Stopes are used to getting a lot of heat and criticism and they’re not worried about it.
“Change the law by breaking it, is the method here,” he said.
One of the effects of Marie Stopes’ action, he said, has been to muddy the waters as to the true nature of the law, with the BBC and others claiming that abortion in Northern Ireland is not illegal after all, merely “tightly regulated.” That and Marie Stopes’ emphasis on offering abortions within nine weeks of conception is already creating confusion in the media some of whom are now claiming that abortion is legal in Northern Ireland up to nine weeks gestation.
Asked how Marie Stopes’ can claim that abortion within nine weeks is “within the law” in Northern Ireland, Gibson said he has no idea, and assumed it was simply an arbitrary date set by their own protocols. “They have done a very good job of seizing control of the situation with the media.”
The problem facing Northern Irish politicians and legal authorities, Gibson said, is due in part to the nature of the criminal justice system, which is designed to punish offenses, not prevent crime: “It’s not great at protecting someone from the aggressor.” Police, he said, will be reluctant to act until it can be shown that Marie Stopes has strayed outside the law. But by then it will be too late.
Precious Life has contacted police in Belfast but was only asked to inform police when they planned to hold demonstrations. “So, their interest,” Gibson said, “is not in the fact that Marie Stopes intends to commit criminal acts, but in policing the pro-life protesters.”
Gibson said that he has been informed that the office of the Attorney General for Northern Ireland – that has jurisdiction over civil and criminal matters that fall within the devolved powers of the Northern Ireland Assembly – is “looking into the matter.” Gibson said that although the AG does not normally receive members of the public directly, he has hopes that John Larkin, QC will be open to suggestions from pro-life Members of the Legislative Assembly.
Pro-life activists in Belfast fear a replay of the situation in Canada where Dr. Henry Morgentaler took the same route by opening illegal abortion facilities in Montreal, Toronto, and other cities, daring the authorities to prosecute him. In the end, Morgentaler was arrested and prosecuted. The final result, after decades of legal battles, was the Supreme Court of Canada overturning the law in 1988.
The court ruled that Parliament must introduce a new law regarding abortion that would withstand constitutional challenge but no government since then has had the will to do so. To this day, Canada remains the only country in the world with no abortion law whatever.
The situation in Belfast closely parallels that of Canada’s in the late 1960s, when Morgentaler started conducting abortions illegally in Montreal. At that time, abortion in Canada was a criminal act and was also allowed only in the rare, medically determined cases in which continuing a pregnancy threatened the life of the mother.
Far from being convicted of the mass murder of thousands of unborn children under the law, Dr. Morgentaler was exonerated and lionized as a hero of “women’s rights,” finally being awarded the Order of Canada in 2008 in a country that had been staunchly pro-life and nearly 50 percent Catholic.
As a registered charity, Marie Stopes International UK had a declared income of £145 million last year, mostly in fees and grants from government bodies. They handle much of the abortion business for the National Health Service along with other groups like the British Pregnancy Advisory Service. Their deep pockets have enabled them to go into countries where abortion is illegal, including the Republic of Ireland, and establish political beachheads, promoting the pro-abortion and contraceptive ideologies through sympathetic media, and lobbying politicians. The pro-life group Precious Life has said they will be presenting evidence to the Attorney General that Marie Stopes officials have admitted to doing clandestine abortions in African countries where the practice remains illegal.
“It looks very much like there’s no way of stopping them if they’re determined. I’ve been speaking to politicians, but it looks as if no one will try to stop it.”
“Pro-life politicians are in shock and do not seem to be acting decisively,” he said. “The whole thing is so crazy that I think the politicians are simply saying ‘I never thought this could happen. How can they get away with it?’ It makes nonsense of the political process.”
“It looks very grim,” he added.