By Hilary White

  BELFAST, May 12, 2008 ( – The leaders of all four main parties in Northern Ireland have written to the government at Westminster objecting to plans to impose legalized abortion on the country. The British government is proposing to extend the 1967 Abortion Act that leaves few restrictions on abortion, to Northern Ireland where the procedure remains illegal in all but a few circumstances.

  Dr. Ian Paisley of the Democratic Unionist Party, Gerry Adams of Sinn Fein, Sir Reg Empey, Ulster Unionist, and Mark Durkan of the Social Democratic and Labour party, have written to Westminster that plans to push legalized abortion through amendments to the upcoming Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) Bill. The debate on that bill is scheduled to begin today.

  Jeffrey Donaldson, chairman of the assembly’s pro-life group, said, “I think it’s a very powerful message we have here, four political leaders coming from very diverse political perspectives but united in their view that we do not want the 1967 Act, with all its implications, imposed on Northern Ireland.”

  Donaldson said the hoped “even pro-abortion MPs” would respect the wishes of the Members who voted last October to retain the current restrictions on abortion.

“The issue of abortion is a matter that should be left to the assembly itself,” he added. “I don’t think it has happened before that the four leaders have lobbied their fellow parliamentarians in this way.”

  The pro-life organization, Precious Life, said that Westminster “must take heed” of the leaders’ message. “We don’t want the ‘67 Act extended,” said Precious Life Director, Bernadette Smyth.

  At the same time, one British abortion lobby group associated with Planned Parenthood, the Family Planning Association (FPA) has accused MPs of inconsistency and “criminalising women” who travel to England to abort their children.

  Audrey Simpson, the head of the FPA said politicians are “completely ignoring the 80,000 people who have travelled to England for abortions since 1967”. The group is insisting that the government impose its will on the Northern Irish parliament.

“Our politicians are criminalising women, they are forcing them to leave their country to do something which is legal in another part of the UK,” she said.

  Precious Life organised press conference on the steps of Stormont, the Northern Irish Assembly building. Bernadette Smyth said that unborn babies and their mothers “must be protected from abortion”.

“I urge the MPs in Westminster respect the democratic process here and vote against any amendment to extend the 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland.”

  In October 2007, Precious Life organised a postcard campaign garnering over 120,000 petitions from the people of Northern Ireland opposing abortion. At that time, the Assembly unanimously passed a motion saying the country did not want abortion legalized. 


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