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29 / 04 / 2008 - TIME FOR PEOPLE OF NORTH TO UNITE TO OPPOSE HFE BILL - Pat Ramsey SDLP
Pat Ramsey MLA and Bernadette Smyth, Director of Precious Life, hand in 15000 Petition Postcards to the Stormont office of the Secretary of State for N. Ireland
SDLP Foyle MLA Pat Ramsey has called on politicians to oppose attempts to extend the Abortion Act to Northern Ireland through the forthcoming Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill at Westminster.
Mr Ramsey, a member of the All-Party Assembly Pro-Life group was speaking after handing in 15,000 postcards from constituents opposing the bill.
Mr Ramsey said devolution of criminal justice powers would allow this issue to remain in control of local representatives.
Mr Ramsey said: “Now is the time for criminal justice powers to be devolved to the local assembly so we do not become victims of those in Westminster who are more concerned with their own agendas, than the good of the people here.
“Gordon Brown has already signalled he will allow a free vote on the extension of the Abortion Act to Northern Ireland in the House of Commons.
“However, if we had devolved legislative powers here in the Assembly then we as elected representatives could ensure this particular issue would remain within our own control.
“The number of cards handed in to my constituency office is evidence of the strength of feeling there is surrounding the bill. I would like to thank the people of Derry for taking the time to support this campaign.
“Now is the time for the people of the North to forget their differences for the greater good.
“Catholics and Protestants, Unionists and Nationalist, all the good moral people in Northern Ireland must join together, draw a line in the sand and say we will not accept this bill.
“The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill will be before the House of Commons in coming weeks. This is a controversial bill with a few welcome provisions, but also with many seriously worrying ones.
“While the Bill is not specifically about abortion, it is clear amendments will have implications for existing abortion law.
“These will fall into three categories. First, some MPs have signalled their intention to table amendments to extend the 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland.
“SDLP MPs will once again oppose such attempts to impose that law here. Second, there will be amendments from other members seeking to reduce the term limit for abortions in Britain from 24 weeks to 20 weeks. SDLP leader and Foyle MP Mark Durkan MLA is a member of the All-Parliamentary Pro-Life Group and will be supporting this amendment.
“The third issue is the current British abortion law has no term-limit on terminations on grounds of ‘foetal abnormality’.
“This means that an abortion can be performed up to birth because of a child’s disability. Records show this is a widely-used basis for abortions and has even included cases of cleft palates.
“The SDLP supports efforts to amend the law to end this affront to equality which say the life of a disabled child deserves less protection.
“In voicing our concerns we are seeking to preserve the integrity of humanity.”
Source : SDLP
See also: SDLP Leader says Embryology Bill presents fundamental dangers