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Bernadette Smyth, the head of Northern Ireland's Precious Life, speaks at LifeSiteNews' Rome Life Forum in May 2014.Steve Jalsevac / LifeSiteNews

(LifeSiteNews) — While eyes are fixed on America’s abortion wars with the court battles over the Texas Heartbeat Act and a rehearing of Roe scheduled at the Supreme Court, many have missed the fact that one of the most interesting fights over pre-born human rights is currently underway in Northern Ireland. While the pro-life Democratic Unionist Party is doing everything in its power to prevent the abortion industry from expanding in Northern Ireland, other politicians are throwing their lot in with the pro-abortion forces.

To better understand what is going on, I reached out to Bernadette Smyth of Precious Life. For those interested in her fascinating life and work, check out my previous conversation with her on the podcast.

What is the situation in Northern Ireland since abortion legalization?

On October 21, 2019, while the Northern Ireland Assembly was suspended, abortion was forced on Northern Ireland by the U.K. Westminster Parliament in London through the NI Executive Formation Act. This innocuous piece of legislation was hijacked by pro-abortion MPs who inserted their amendment to Section 9 of the Act, and it was passed by a majority vote in the Parliament. Section 9 removed the legislation contained in the Offences Against The Person Act that had previously protected unborn babies in Northern Ireland for over 150 years.

The Westminster Government overriding the Northern Ireland Assembly was unprecedented. Since the “peace process” of the 90s, abortion was always a “devolved matter.” Devolved matters are those areas of government where decision-making has been delegated by the Westminster Parliament to the “devolved institutions” in the U.K. — the Northern Ireland Assembly, Welsh Assembly, and Scottish Parliament.

Due to disagreements on other political issues, the Northern Ireland Assembly had been suspended since 2017. The institution was restored again in January 2020. However, Westminster’s abortion regulations still came into force in March 2020, without MLAs (members of the Northern Ireland Assembly) having any say in the matter.

Since then, over 1,556 unborn babies have been killed according to the latest official abortion statistics.

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PETITION: Pope Francis MUST clarify what he told pro-abortion Joe Biden about Holy Communion
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UPDATE 10/29/2021:

Joe Biden claims Pope Francis said he should continue receiving Holy Communion, despite the president's radical, anti-Catholic support for abortion. Biden asserted that the pontiff “was happy I’m a good Catholic,” and that the president should “keep receiving Communion.”

Please SIGN this urgent petition to Pope Francis urging him to clarify what he told Biden at his private audience in Rome. Biden should be facing formal excommunication because of his public and obstinate promotion of abortion, but instead we have the perverse situation in which he claims to have the blessing of the pope to sacrilegiously receive Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist. Pope Francis must clarify what exactly was said in order to avoid scandal and being complicit in such grave sin. If Joe Biden wishes to return to communion with the Church he must immediately and publicly stop and repent from his active support of the culture of death.

To ensure that this petition reaches Pope Francis, it will also be CC'ed to the Papal Nuncio of the United States, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, as well as to the Chairman of the Pro-Life Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Joseph Naumann.

Indeed, Joe Biden recently proposed a budget which would eliminate the Hyde Amendment, potentially allowing billions of taxpayer dollars to go to the funding of abortion domestically.

So, it is now an indisputable fact that Joe Biden, himself, is forcing abortion on the American public as well as around the world (e.g., Biden's executive order abolishing the Mexico City Policy).

However, since we know that the Church prioritizes abortion as the "pre-eminent" moral issue, and also how the pope has recently reiterated the teaching that abortion is "homicide," we ask the Pope to ensure that Biden's scandalous claim be clarified and his support for abortion be condemned.

This is the prime opportunity for the pope to make it crystal clear to Biden: Promoting abortion is absolutely and utterly incompatible with being in communion with the Church, and that those politicians who publicly and obstinately support abortion effectively put themselves outside communion with the Church, but also merit formal excommunication.

Joe Biden's active and concentrated promotion of abortion since he took office only 9 months ago is a grave scandal to the faithful of the United States, and to Catholics everywhere.

But, perhaps even more scandalous is the USCCB's decision not to directly and publicly address how Biden's radical, public promotion of abortion affects his standing in the Church.

The silence from our American shepherds is deafening.

Therefore, Pope Francis must now intervene to protect both the Holy Eucharist and our preborn brothers and sisters from death, to protect authentic Church teaching from deceitful "Catholics" like Joe Biden, and to protect the faithful from the grievous scandal caused by Biden's claims, action and the intolerable dithering and "dialoging" engaged in by the USCCB.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

'Biden will meet with Pope Francis to discuss ‘human dignity,’ but abortion left off agenda'

'Biden restores foreign aid to abortion by repealing Mexico City Policy'

'Removing the Hyde Amendment in Biden’s proposed budget will set a precedent'

ORIGINAL PETITION:

Joe Biden is scheduled to meet Pope Francis in Rome in a rapidly approaching audience on October 29th.

Please SIGN this urgent petition to Pope Francis urging him to tell Biden that he will face formal excommunication because of his public and obstinate promotion of abortion, and that if he wishes to return to communion with the Church he must immediately and publicly stop and repent from his active support of the culture of death.

To ensure that this petition reaches Pope Francis, it will also be CC'ed to the Papal Nuncio of the United States, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, as well as to the Chairman of the Pro-Life Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Joseph Naumann.

Indeed, Joe Biden recently proposed a budget which would eliminate the Hyde Amendment, potentially allowing billions of taxpayer dollars to go to the funding of abortion domestically.

So, it is now an indisputable fact that Joe Biden, himself, is forcing abortion on the American public as well as around the world (e.g., Biden's executive order abolishing the Mexico City Policy).

But, reports suggest that the pope and Biden are only supposed to speak about COVID and climate change...

However, since we know that the Church prioritizes abortion as the "pre-eminent" moral issue, and also how the pope has recently reiterated the teaching that abortion is "homicide," we ask the Pope to ensure that Biden's scandalous support of abortion become the central focus of their meeting.

This is the prime opportunity for the pope to make it crystal clear to Biden: Promoting abortion is absolutely and utterly incompatible with being in communion with the Church, and that those politicians who publicly and obstinately support abortion effectively put themselves outside communion with the Church, but also merit formal excommunication.

Joe Biden's active and concentrated promotion of abortion since he took office only 9 months ago is a grave scandal to the faithful of the United States, and to Catholics everywhere.

But, perhaps even more scandalous is the USCCB's decision not to directly and publicly address how Biden's radical, public promotion of abortion affects his standing in the Church.

The silence from our American shepherds is deafening.

Therefore, Pope Francis must now intervene to protect our preborn brothers and sisters from death, to protect authentic Church teaching from deceitful "Catholics" like Joe Biden, and to protect the faithful from the grievous scandal caused by Biden's action and the intolerable dithering and "dialoging" engaged in by the USCCB.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

'Biden will meet with Pope Francis to discuss ‘human dignity,’ but abortion left off agenda' - https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/biden-will-meet-with-pope-francis-to-discuss-human-dignity-abortion-left-off-agenda/

'Biden restores foreign aid to abortion by repealing Mexico City Policy' - https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/biden-restores-foreign-aid-to-abortion-with-repeal-of-mexico-city-policy/

'Removing the Hyde Amendment in Biden’s proposed budget will set a precedent' - https://www.lifesitenews.com/blogs/removing-the-hyde-amendment-in-bidens-proposed-budget-will-set-a-precedent/

**Photo Credit: CBSN / YouTube

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However, the full implementation of Westminster’s abortion regulations requires the approval of all the Executive Ministers of the Northern Ireland Assembly. The Executive Committee is made up of Ministers, who are MLAs appointed by the Assembly to run the various Departments, including Health. It is led by the First Minister, Paul Givan of the DUP, and Deputy First Minister, Michelle O’Neill of Sinn Fein.

Sinn Fein support abortion, but the DUP is opposed to abortion and has been trying to block Westminster’s regulations.

In March 2021, the U.K. government’s Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis gave himself new powers to force the Executive to fully implement the new abortion regulations.

Sinn Fein welcomed the move, but the DUP condemned it. First Minister Paul Givan vowed to resist the government order, and warned he was prepared to go to court to block the move.

What is the government doing to push back?

Unfortunately the Northern Ireland Assembly now has a pro-abortion majority.

The largest party — the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) — is pro-life. However, the second largest party — Sinn Fein — has always been pro-abortion. The third largest party — the SDLP (Social Democratic and Labour Party) — in 2018 dropped its longstanding pro-life policy to support instead “freedom of conscience voting” on the issue of abortion. The Party leadership is now pro-abortion.

Traditionally, the DUP receives its votes mostly from the Protestant community, while Sinn Fein and the SDLP receive their votes mostly from the Catholic community. The DUP and the small TUV party (Traditional Unionist Voice) are the only parties in the Assembly that take a stand against abortion. The DUP’s Paul Givan has introduced a Bill to stop abortions being carried out in cases of “non-fatal disabilities.” The Bill is now on its 4th stage of 7.

The small pro-abortion Green Party has introduced a “Buffer Zone” Bill to criminalize pro-lifers holding vigils outside the centres where abortions are currently taking place. If passed, it will be a crime to pray, hold a sign, hand out leaflets, or talk to or “influence” a woman outside an abortion center; punishable with fines up to £2,500 (approx. $3,440.) It will also give police the power to use “reasonable force” to physically remove a pro-life person from the zones. With the exception of the DUP and TUV, the Bill is supported by all the other Parties in the Assembly. The Bill has passed it second stage, and has 5 further stages to go through. However, time remains short for the Bill to complete legislative passage before the next Assembly Election scheduled for May 2022.

What is the pro-life movement doing to assist them?

Precious Life supported a legal case at the High Court in Belfast on October 4, 2021, when the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) challenged Westminster’s abortion laws in Northern Ireland. The case heard that Secretary of State Brandon Lewis exceeded his legal authority when he granted himself an unprecedented level of control over abortion in Northern Ireland. It could be several months before judgment is delivered.

Since abortion was forced on Northern Ireland in 2019, Precious Life has been running the REPEAL SECTION 9 Campaign. This petition and political lobby campaign has collected tens of thousands of signatures for our Postcard Petition sent to the Northern Ireland Assembly. We actively encourage the public to lobby their Assembly Members to repeal section 9 of the NI Executive Formation Act and restore protection and personhood for our unborn babies.

We hold Life Chains several times a year to highlight the number of babies that are now being killed in Northern Ireland by abortion. Precious Life has also maintained daily vigils outside the abortion centres where we offer help and life-affirming alternatives to abortion-vulnerable women. And every Saturday, our Street Outreach takes the pro-life message directly to the public in the towns and cities across Northern Ireland. We set up our Information Booth and pro-life display, hand out information leaflets, and collect signatures for our Repeal Section 9 petition.

We’re already preparing our “Vote for Life” campaign for the Assembly Election in May 2022, when we will name and shame those politicians in Northern Ireland who support the killing of unborn babies, and encourage the electorate to vote only for pro-life candidates. It is essential that we throw out the pro-abortionist MLAs and return a pro-life majority again to the Northern Ireland Assembly.

In the meantime, if the “Buffer Zones” bill is passed by the Assembly, we will challenge it in the courts because of its direct attack on the human right to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. If Paul Givan’s bill to protect disabled babies succeeds, then our next step must be to ensure that ALL unborn babies are protected in Northern Ireland.

Westminster forcing abortion on us was one of the worst tragedies ever to happen in Northern Ireland. But it has not discouraged us — in fact it has only served to reinvigorate us. Whether it’s informing the public on the streets, challenging abortion laws in the courts, or lobbying the politicians in government, Precious Life will always be there as a voice for the unborn child.

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Jonathon Van Maren is a public speaker, writer, and pro-life activist. His commentary has been translated into more than eight languages and published widely online as well as print newspapers such as the Jewish Independent, the National Post, the Hamilton Spectator and others. He has received an award for combating anti-Semitism in print from the Jewish organization B’nai Brith. His commentary has been featured on CTV Primetime, Global News, EWTN, and the CBC as well as dozens of radio stations and news outlets in Canada and the United States.

He speaks on a wide variety of cultural topics across North America at universities, high schools, churches, and other functions. Some of these topics include abortion, pornography, the Sexual Revolution, and euthanasia. Jonathon holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in history from Simon Fraser University, and is the communications director for the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform.

Jonathon’s first book, The Culture War, was released in 2016.

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