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22 / 09 / 2009 - Northern Ireland Guidelines Will Establish Abortion on Demand by "Bureaucratic Stealth"
Pro-life campaigners in Northern Ireland are perplexed at the reappearance and acceptance of abortion guidelines from the UK government that were rejected by the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2007 for being contrary to the province's unborn child protection laws.
Both the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) and the Belfast-based Precious Life have objected that the new guidelines will essentially bring in the provisions of the UK's 1967 Abortion Act by bureaucratic stealth, effectively creating abortion on demand in a country where it is a criminal offence.
Guidelines on the application of the abortion law were issued in 2007 at the request of pro-abortion lobby groups, but were rejected by the North Ireland Assembly health committee for having failed to take into account the fact that abortion is a crime in Northern Ireland. In March this year, a new set of guidelines were issued; yet, despite their being essentially unchanged from the previous document, they have been accepted provisionally by the Assembly.
Liam Gibson, of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) in Northern Ireland, told LifeSiteNews.com (LSN) that the guidelines "misrepresent" the law and have "minimised the illegality of abortion in Northern Ireland."
"Abortion is a criminal offence, not medical treatment," he said. "And the guidelines as they are now, give the impression that abortion is fundamentally lawful except in a few circumstances when really it's the other way around. In fact, it is unlawful except in a few circumstances."
The new guidelines, he said, "treat abortion as if it is a legitimate medical service, completely reversing the legal situation of abortion to make it something that is commonplace and has to be facilitated by medical personnel."
Gibson said, "The department of health insists that it doesn't change the law, but it will change everything. It will change medical practice until the law becomes a dead letter, until abortion is allowed under 'mental health' issues. Technically the courts have recognised that a woman's 'mental health' is enough to justify abortion."
Bernadette Smyth, head of Precious Life, told LSN that she fears something has been decided "behind closed doors" in Northern Ireland's Assembly that has resulted in guidelines that were unacceptable under the law a year ago to suddenly be approved by the same group of legislators.
Smyth told LSN, "Has something happened behind closed doors that no one is willing to stop these guidelines?" Smyth warned that the guidelines, if implemented, would compel medical personnel to participate in abortion and would, in fact, even further liberalise the 1967 Act, in that they would require only one doctor, a GP, to decide whether abortion was medically required to save a woman's life.
"They can't change the law," Smyth said, "but they can change the interpretation of the law."
"What they're saying is that even a GP can make a decision as to whether an abortion can be committed. Does that mean that an abortion can be committed in the back of a GP's surgery? This may be an exaggeration but there is no way of knowing what the outcome will be."
Precious Life has launched a petition and a full scale lobbying campaign and Smyth is meeting with key Members of the Legislative Assembly tomorrow. "We don't know why they're turning their back on something they claim to be opposed to," she said.
SPUC is seeking a judicial review of the guidelines that will investigate whether they are in line with current Northern Irish law. "We are not asking for the guidelines to be thrown over. We want them to be clear, accurate and to protect the rights of women, children and medical professionals," Gibson said.
SPUC is going to court on the 27 and 28th October. In the meantime the guidelines, while officially accepted, will not be implemented, pending the outcome of the judicial review.
Currently, Northern Ireland allows abortion legally only in cases where it is clear that a pregnancy threatens the life of the mother. In 2001, pro-abortion lobby groups petitioned the courts to force the government to issue guidance to clarify in exactly what circumstances abortion is allowable. The first set of guidelines were rejected by the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety of the Northern Ireland Assembly for failing to make clear that abortion is a crime.
Chaired by pro-life MP Iris Robinson, the committee said that "the starting point for the Guidance should have been a clear statement that abortion is illegal in Northern Ireland and that the purpose of the guidance is to explain the very limited circumstances in which it is lawful to terminate a pregnancy."
The committee noted that in Northern Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom, it is a crime "punishable by a maximum of life imprisonment to use any means with intent to procure miscarriage, and an offence to supply means knowing that they are to be used with that intent."
"The Guidance should then have recalled the central if not sole purpose of this prohibition: the protection of the unborn child, a purpose which has informed the law against abortion for over 700 years. Only when the rule had been clearly stated should the scope of the exception have been considered."
The committee objected that the draft guidelines made no mention of the rights of the unborn baby and questioned the specifications on counselling, saying it had "very serious concerns" that they could result in minors and persons with learning disabilities having abortions without the knowledge or consent of parents.
Audrey Simpson of the Family Planning Association, one of the principal lobbying forces behind the publication of the guidelines, told the BBC in March that the new guidelines mark "the first time the Department of Health has had to acknowledge that women in Northern Ireland are no different from women in the rest of the UK."
Under the 1967 Abortion Act, in England, Scotland and Wales, abortion is legally available up to 24 weeks gestation in cases of a healthy child or up to the point of natural birth if the child is suspected to have a disability judged to be "severe."
Sign Precious Life's online petition here
Source: Hilary White - LifeSiteNews.com