NewsMon Oct 20, 2008 - 12:15 pm EST
Huge Belfast Rally Opposes Attempt to Impose Abortion on Northern Ireland
By Hilary White
BELFAST, U.K. October 20, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Pro-life people from all over the island came to support Northern Irish MPs and MLAs who have told Westminster that they will refuse to implement any new law that attempts to push unwanted legalized abortion onto the province. Despite pouring rain, pro-life organizers are hailing a rally in Belfast on Friday as a triumph. Although the sparse mainstream media coverage downgraded the turnout as a mere “few hundred” event organizers said they were pleased with the nearly 5000-strong crowd.
The rally was organized after a group of six radical pro-abortion Westminster MPs, none of whom represent Northern Irish constituencies, tabled an amendment to the Labour government’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology bill that proposes to extend the provisions of the 1967 Abortion Act into Northern Ireland. The HFE bill is set to come to a third reading vote on Wednesday night. Pro-life campaigners have planned a second rally at the Houses of Parliament and are presenting MPs with a petition asking that the amendments liberalizing Britain’s abortion laws be defeated.
Bernadette Smyth, director of Precious Life, Northern Ireland’s foremost pro-life organization, told LifeSiteNews.com that although conflicting reports in the media and rumors in Parliament leave the status of the amendment in doubt, “the fact that all the MPs were on the stage and were united in their opposition, is, I think, something really unique.
“People are gathering to say ‘this can’t happen’,” Smyth added.
Northern Irish politicians have shown a united front against all attempts to push the province into accepting the 1967 Abortion Act that allows abortion up to 24 weeks for any reason and abortion for eugenic purposes to kill disabled children with no limit. They have sent two letters to the government at Westminster demanding that the issue be decided only by the devolved Northern Irish parliament at Stormont, with appropriate democratic oversight according to the historic Good Friday Agreement.
An international gathering of speakers at the Belfast rally included Joe Scheidler, national director of the Pro-Life Action League in Chicago and John Smeaton, the director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, who heard politicians pledge to reject legalized abortion in Northern Ireland, no matter what Westminster decrees on Wednesday. Also present were Lynn Coles of the Silent No More campaign, who spoke about her abortion experience, and Dr. Sean O’Domhnaill, a psychiatrist and vice-chairman of the Mother and Child campaign in Ireland, who spoke about the gift of nine months and nine hours of life of an anencephalic baby whose birth he attended.
Jeffrey Donaldson, Democratic Unionist Party MP and Junior Minister in the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister of the Northern Ireland Executive, said that the Northern Ireland Assembly would categorically reject any order by Westminster to accept legal abortion.
“If Westminster imposes the Abortion Act,” Donaldson said, “as a minister in the Northern Ireland government I will not implement that law.”
Declarations such as this from determined Northern Irish MLAs have reportedly pulled government ministers up short and the Daily Telegraph reports today that fears over the Northern Irish peace process and the negotiations over the devolution of justice and policing issues may defeat the proposed abortion amendment.
Iris Robinson MP, MLA, and chairman of the Northern Ireland Assembly Health Committee, also said that the Assembly would not accept legal abortion. “Abortion in Northern Ireland? Never, never, never. Ulster says no to abortion!”
Robinson, an outspoken defender of traditional Christian values, thanked those who attended, saying, “I believe it is the duty of government to uphold God’s law. We need to fast and pray in the coming days.
“In 2006, 98 percent of abortions in England and Wales were for ‘social reasons.’ Only 0.4 percent were for a risk to the life of the mother. Abortion at any stage of pregnancy is the taking of a human life. Stand with me. A majority of people must have the moral conviction to say not in my name!”
John Smeaton wrote on his blog that Northern Ireland’s politicians and people have “shown the world how to resist abortion with determination and intelligence.”
“The might of international institutions, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, the mis-named Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, all seeking to promote abortion in Northern Ireland and elsewhere in the world, had failed to overturn the weight of public opinion, and the strength of the political leadership in Northern Ireland which steadfastly oppose the killing of the unborn,” Smeaton continued.
Liam Gibson, SPUC’s Northern Ireland development officer, commented, “The Northern Ireland Act which implements the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement requires all legislation in Northern Ireland ... to be approved by the Assembly.”
“It will cause a major constitutional difficulty for Gordon Brown to sort out. It could even call into question the future of the devolved institutions. It is very important that MPs realize just how important this issue is in Northern Ireland.”