The “consultation” instigated by the Northern Irish minister of justice to discuss legalizing abortion for seriously disabled unborn babies has categorically refused to consider submissions from the public addressing the substantive question of whether abortion ought to be legalized in the province. Pro-life advocates believe the fix is in, and that the UK government has already decided.
“This is not the time for a debate on the wider issues of abortion law, issues often labeled as ‘pro-choice’ and ‘pro-life’. There is no part of this document which seeks to open up this conversation, and no response which addresses such issues will be taken into account,” the government’s document says.
“No response to this document which addresses these wider issues will be considered relevant to any proposed reform of the criminal law on abortion,” it continues. Indeed, it has been revealed that David Ford has refused to meet with a woman whose child was born with a condition usually termed as “incompatible with life” but who believes that abortion must remain illegal.
Taking his cue from the abortion lobby’s strategy book, Ford has taken an incrementalist approach by starting with the usual “hard cases,” while his legislative assembly supporters have gone to the press to talk about “compassion.” In an op-ed in the Belfast Telegraph, Ford said that opinion polls had shown that the time was ripe for a “modest adjustment” in the abortion law.
Abortion, Ford has suggested, should be available “only” for children deemed by a physician to be suffering a “lethal abnormality” and in cases of rape. Historically, these have been the two “classic” wedge issues that have ultimately led to the full legalization of virtually unlimited abortion in the rest of the UK as well as other countries.
At the same time, Martin McGuinness, Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister, who claims to be Catholic while backing plans to change the law, cited the “generosity and compassion of Pope Francis” in his push for the change, saying that support for abortion is in continuity with “my Catholicism.”
“I try and be the best Catholic I can be,” McGuinness told the BBC. “The Catholic Church is made up of people who have different opinions on different issues.”
Precious Life, the leading pro-life group in Northern Ireland, has distributed thousands of submission postcards to the public, and presented 25,000 responses to the consultation. The government’s proposal to legalize abortion in cases of “lethal abnormalities” is nothing more than “the worst form of discrimination” against children with serious disabilities, the group said.
Gemma Bradley, whose unborn baby was diagnosed with Trisomy 18, a condition known as Edward’s syndrome, had written to Ford on November 5 requesting a meeting. She wanted to tell Ford “why she felt legalising abortion would not help mothers in her position.”
Precious Life said, “In response, Mr. Ford refused to meet with her and dismissed her concern.” In his letter responding to Bradley, Ford – who has said he wants to see abortion enshrined in law as a “statutory right” – said, “It is clear from your letter that [abortion] would not have been a choice you would have made. … My consultation is primarily about seeking a change in the law to enable those women who wish to choose a different path to yours to do so.”
This consultation, Northern Ireland’s pro-life leaders have said, is just the latest in a nearly continuous assault against the province’s legal protection for unborn children. Liam Gibson, the Northern Ireland officer for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, likened the situation to being under siege: “We won’t hold out forever and in fact time could be running out for us.”
“Northern Ireland is in the middle of a coordinated series of attacks more serious than anything we have experienced,” Gibson told LifeSiteNews.
Gibson, adding his voice to the majority of the pro-life movement around the world, said that one of the biggest obstacles in Northern Ireland is the lack of adequate moral formation among the political class. As usual, he said, the neo-Marxist Sinn Fein is the main engine behind this push for legalization, with the Democratic Unionist Party opposed.
Gibson said, “One of the main jobs for the pro-life movement before May’s general election will be making sure the pro-abortionists in Sinn Fein and other smaller parties pay a price for their stance on this issue.”
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Giving a hint as to the scope of possible future legislation, the Justice Minister’s document defines a “foetus” as “the embryo in the later stages of development, from the end of the second month of pregnancy until birth.” While politicians insisted that the legalization of abortion in the Republic of Ireland was strictly “limited,” the Republic now offers abortion with no gestational age limits, up to the point of birth.
The Catholic archbishop of Armagh has pledged that the Church will fight against any attempt to legalize the killing of the unborn, on any pretext.
Liam Gibson said that pro-life advocates, who have usually had strong representation in Northern Ireland’s legislative assembly, were hamstrung by the government’s refusal to discuss the substance of the issue. Although the consultation is proposing a 180-degree turnaround – from abortion being outlawed to being legalized – pro-life lobbyists were faced with the prospect of any submission addressing that issue being summarily rejected.
“I think there was a good response from our side but the Justice Department could choose to disqualify as many submissions as they want,” he said. “If someone opposes the Minister’s recommendations because they object to abortion in principle then their submission could simply be dismissed.”
Gibson warned that even if the legislative avenue continues to fail, legalization is being aggressively pursued through other avenues that are less open to public intervention. He noted that the success of the pro-life efforts to block the UK’s abortion lobby in Northern Ireland has led to the province’s Human Rights Commission launching a judicial review of the Department of Justice’s refusal to immediately introduce a new law to allow abortion for foetal disability and children conceived in rape.
“The HRC claims that our current law violates the European Convention on Human Rights. This is utter nonsense of course but if abortion is going to be introduced to Northern Ireland in the near future then it will be through the courts.”