Pressure mounts for last ditch attempt to stop abortion in North

Pressure mounts for last ditch attempt to stop abortion in North Baroness Nuala O’Loan

Leading human rights campaigner Baroness Nuala O’Loan has pleaded with Catholic lawmakers in the North to return to Stormont to block the imminent imposition of abortion on the region by Westminster.

A special sitting of the northern Assembly will meet tomorrow which could prevent the legalisation of abortion coming into effect at midnight. However, MLAs from both Sinn Féin and the SDLP have said they will not attend. This will mean locally elected representatives will be unable to stop the Westminster move to impose abortion on the North.

In a statement on Sunday, Baroness O’Loan recalled that it took just 17 minutes for MPs from England, Scotland and Wales to debate their move to impose abortion. “Those who passed the law did not represent us and they did not take time to work out the consequences of what they were doing,” Baroness O’Loan said.

She also warned of the extremity of the law if an Executive is not formed including the fact that nobody will be investigated or face criminal prosecution for carrying out an abortion with the consent of the mother, up to 28 weeks of gestation, or earlier if the child is capable of being born alive.

Meanwhile, Aontú is stepping up pressure on Sinn Féin to ensure that the executive is formed to ensure that Europe’s most extreme abortion law is not imposed on the North.

Over 60,000 people have signed a petition calling on the party’s leader in the region Michelle O’Neill to act to block the law.

The petition is part of a wider campaign by Aontú to encourage Sinn Fein and the DUP to restore the north of Ireland Executive by Tuesday, October 22.

Aontú has been running public meetings and postering in a number of key constituencies across the North and is due to announce candidates for the upcoming Westminster election shortly.

According to party leader Peadar Tóibiín TD: “Sinn Féin lobbied for Westminster to ride roughshod over the people of the north of Ireland and impose an abortion regime in the north of Ireland that will allow for the ending of human lives in an unprecedented way.

“We know that abortion targets the most voiceless and vulnerable section of the human family. Abortion additionally targets particularly vulnerable groups of people, such as ethnic minorities, baby girls, the poor and those with disabilities. This is borne out by international statistics,” Mr Tóibiín insisted.

He warned that “rather than tackling structural problems in our society, particularly those problems disproportionately faced by women, such as poverty and job insecurity, abortion provides an escape mechanism for the establishment so that they do not have to address pressing issues.

“Sinn Féin’s role in seeking British abortion laws for the north of Ireland has been jaw-dropping for all who have the pursuit of Irish self-determination at heart. For 200 years Irish republicans have told London that they have no business legislating for Ireland. In an extreme change of direction Mary Lou [McDonald] and Michelle O’Neill went to London and demanded that Westminster impose this abortion legislation on the people of the north of Ireland,” Mr Tóibiín pointed out.

Mr Tóibiín said that his party is “calling for Sinn Féin at this late hour to do the right thing and act to stop the imposition of British abortion laws in Ireland. If they don’t, they will be directly responsible for the regime that follows.”

It comes as Bishop of Clogher Larry Duffy became the latest prelate to add his voice to calls for local politicians to act to stop London.

In a statement Bishop Duffy insisted that “at this critical moment in our history, it is vitally important that political leaders in Northern Ireland face up to their responsibility to protect life, especially the life of the most vulnerable, such as unborn babies in the womb and their mothers”.

Dr Duffy made a special appeal to political representatives “to set aside differences and to use the opportunity of the assembly meeting on Monday next and to assert their own authority on this critical question. The political impasse on this has gone on too long and has been cynically manipulated by the parliament at Westminster to remove legal protection for unborn babies in Northern Ireland up to 28 weeks in their mother’s womb.

“There is no greater calling than to protect, sustain and celebrate life from the moment of conception until natural death.

“I ask people everywhere to pray for political leaders everywhere at this time; that they will respect and uphold the unique dignity of life, born and unborn,” Bishop Duffy said.

In her statement, Baroness O’Loan also highlighted the extreme nature of the law being pushed on the North:

  • There will be no abortion specific standards for abortion clinics to comply with (unlike England and Wales).
  • There will be no abortion specific inspection (in England and Wales abortion clinics have had their services suspended for failing to meet the standards).
  • There will be no regulation of the activity of abortion (unlike England and Wales). There will be no regulation of the procedure – no requirement for two doctors to agree to the abortion, no requirement for counselling before the abortion, no requirement for any Registration of the fact of the abortion (unlike England and Wales).
  • There will be no regulatory framework to prevent anyone carrying out an abortion outside a registered clinic provided the woman gives consent and no prescription only medicines are used. (unlike in England and Wales).
  • A person will be able to carry out abortions in any location even though they have no medical or nursing qualifications (unlike in England and Wales).
  • There will be confusion about access to medication for early abortions. Government has said that there is no expectation that GPs will prescribe medication for early medical abortion. There is no law to say that patients could not ask for such medication. In England and Wales GPs do not provide abortion services. Such medication should not be taken after nine weeks and six days of pregnancy because of the risks attaching to it. There will be no provision for its administration.
  • There will be no specific provision for conscientious objection to involvement in abortion by doctors, nurses of pharmacists despite the fact that 800 doctors wrote to the Secretary of State saying, “our consciences demand that we not be silent…We wish to make known our opposition to the imminent introduction of abortion in Northern Ireland”, and that “Our concern throughout is for pregnant mothers and their unborn children.”

According to Baroness O’Loan, “this is why I and the nearly 29,000 people who have signed my petition have asked our MLAs to go back into the Assembly and to get back to work.

“This is no political stunt. Tens of thousands of other people have marched, protested and demanded that the Assembly return. We need the Assembly to deal with what will happen to us during Brexit, to take the decisions necessary to allow our country to function again, to make our health, education and other services function properly again and most of all to stop this most radical abortion law being imposed on Northern Ireland.

“Only our MLAs working in the Assembly can stop this appalling situation,” Baroness O’Loan insisted.