By Hilary White

BELFAST, October 9, 2008 ( – Attempts by Westminster to force legalised abortion onto the province of Northern Ireland could spark a constitutional crisis, say MLAs. Assembly Member, Pat Ramsey (SDLP), called it “outrageous that British MPs are attempting to impose abortion against the clear wishes of the people of Northern Ireland.”

Such a move “could collapse the entire Assembly,” he told the Irish Catholic newspaper. “I don’t think there’d be much point in having an assembly where all the parties are opposed to abortion, but the British Government imposes it anyway.”

Jeffrey Donaldson (DUP) agreed, saying that if Westminster forces abortion on Northern Ireland, it would certainly trigger a constitutional crisis and would “put an end” to the Northern Ireland Assembly.

In July this year, a group of pro-abortion MPs, none of whom represent Northern Ireland, proposed an amendment to the government’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) bill that would extend Britain’s 1967 Abortion Act into Northern Ireland.

This followed an assurance only last year from Secretary of State (Minister) of Northern Ireland, Paul Goggins, that no attempts would be made by the Labour government to force legal abortion on Northern Ireland. But trust was not high and in May, the leaders of all four main parties of Northern Ireland wrote to the government opposing any possible attempts to force the Abortion Act into the province.

Almost exactly one year later, however, a group of six abortion-promoting MPs, at the behest of various abortion organisations such as Marie Stopes International and the Family Planning Association, tabled the motion. The MPs, Diane Abbott, Dr. Evan Harris, John Bercow, Jacqui Lait, John McDonnell, and Katy Clark, are known to be among the British Parliament’s most zealous campaigners for abortion and the anti-life ideologies.

Northern Ireland’s foremost pro-life lobbying organisation, Precious Life, is coordinating the public campaign of opposition and expects to see “tens of thousands” at a rally set for October 18th, just four days before the HFE bill is scheduled to be brought back to the UK House of Commons for a vote on amendments.

Bernadette Smyth, director of Precious Life, told that the brazen attempt to impose an ideological view on Northern Ireland, as well as the obvious media bias by the BBC in its coverage of the issue, has angered the people of Northern Ireland who are flooding her phone lines.

When asked what the response has been, Smyth responded, “We don’t have enough phone lines. We’re very encouraged by the response from the churches. There is a real sense of urgency. A real concern that this is the battle of all battles, and that the decision to protect the next generation will be made now.”

Smyth, who also serves as the communications secretary to the Northern Ireland All Party Pro-life Group, said that the response from the public to Precious Life’s billboard campaign has been “phenomenal.” She said, “People who have never been actively involved in pro-life issues before are contacting us with offers of help to distribute boxes of leaflets and posters.” Public opposition to legal abortion in the province has been steady with 120,000 signatures on a petition sent to Westminster late last year.

“The message of the rally,” Smyth said, “will be that the people of Northern Ireland stand united with their churches and their politicians.” All the churches, Church of Ireland (Anglican), Methodist and Catholic Churches, have expressed their support and are participating actively in organising the rally. Many are arranging bus transport for their congregations.

A news program by BBC Northern Ireland featured what Smyth characterised as a strongly pro-abortion bias in their coverage, but this has helped the pro-life side, she said. “We’ve been receiving calls daily from people saying they are outraged.” Callers say also that they are contacting the BBC to complain of the biased coverage given to the pro-life movement.

“It’s not doing us any harm but is raising the profile and causing people to react to the hypocrisy of the media and the pro-abortion movement,” Smyth said. 

A group of pro-life people will be travelling to Westminster from Northern Ireland to rally at Parliament and present a petition asking for the anti-life amendments to be scrapped.

“Our Goliath is Westminster,” Smyth said. “We don’t have rights with the abortion law, which has not been devolved. Which is why Westminster can make decisions over our heads. England seems to think they can just ignore us and railroad over the democratic process.”

To contact Precious Life

P.O. Box 425
  N. Ireland
  BT1 4YF

  028 9027 8484 (within UK)
  048 9027 8484 (from Republic of Ireland)
  00 44 28 9027 8484 (from rest of the world)
[email protected]

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Embryo Bill in Northern Ireland Could Bring Legal Abortion in by “Back Door”

All Four Northern Ireland Party Leaders say No to Legalizing Abortion

Westminster Will not Meddle with Northern Ireland Abortion Laws says Secretary of State

Embryo Bill in Northern Ireland Could Bring Legal Abortion in by “Back Door”