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09 / 01 / 2009 - Northern Ireland`s largest daily newspaper reaffirms rights of unborn
Northern Ireland's largest daily newspaper has published an editorial reaffirming that "Human life at all stages is precious, from conception onwards, and the clear view in Northern Ireland is that the unborn have their rights as well."
The full text of the Belfast Telegraph's 5 January editorial is printed below...
The latest figures concerning the number of Northern Ireland women who are travelling to England and Wales to have their pregnancies terminated are most disturbing.
Information released by the Health Minister Michael McGimpsey reveals that in 2007 there were 1,343 abortions carried out in England and Wales on women from this part of the United Kingdom.
The majority of such abortions would be regarded as illegal here, although 99 were performed in Northern Ireland during 2007 in situations where pregnancy was regarded as a severe risk to the life of the mother. This figure showed a rise of 36 per cent from that of four years previously.
Between 2003 and 2007, some 6,400 abortions on women from Northern Ireland took place in hospitals in England and Wales. However, it is feared that the numbers seeking abortions outside Northern Ireland could be much greater, because the figures do not indicate how many are going to Scotland or elsewhere for the termination of their pregnancies.
Some campaigners have taken these figures as a further indication that abortion should be made more easily available in Northern Ireland, but there is also an extremely strong lobby which is firmly opposed to such a development. This is one of the most serious and divisive health and social issues in Northern Ireland, and there was much controversy earlier last year when a number of British MPs tried unsuccessfully to bring the legislation on abortions here into line with the rest of the UK.
This is not simply a question of ‘equality for women’, as some pro-choice campaigners would claim. While Northern Ireland is indeed part of the United Kingdom, it does not follow automatically that its social and religious norms are exactly the same as those in other regions.
The local pro-life groups and the Churches are reflecting the views of many people in Northern Ireland, and it would be wrong for the politicians and legislators not to take these into account. It has long been the view of this newspaper that ‘abortion on demand’ is not an option, and that the current balance is right, where abortion is available only when the life of the mother is threatened.
However, it must be stressed that those women facing these literally life or death choices need the greatest possible support and understanding. This should include counselling, and a comprehensive assessment of all the vital issues involved. That is not to minimise the pain or emotional upheaval involved, but the choice of abortion is such a final step that there is no reversal of a decision which has such traumatic implications for individuals and families.
The answer to unwanted pregnancies is not simply abortion, but also a more comprehensive and informed study of the ways in which such pregnancies can be prevented, especially among much younger women and teenagers. More thought might also be given to the social paradox where more women are travelling elsewhere for abortions, while childless couples often find adoption so difficult.
There are no easy answers to this deeply human and emotionally fraught problem. However it is not sufficient to claim that Northern Ireland is just another part of the United Kingdom where other, and often very different, values apply. Human life at all stages is precious, from conception onwards, and the clear view in Northern Ireland is that the unborn have their rights as well.
Source : Belfast Telegraph