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26 / 03 / 2008 - Embryo Bill could cause ’’constitutional crisis’’ in Northern Ireland
Precious Life and supporters on the steps at Stormont in 2007
Precious Life has reacted angrily to the Prime Minister's failure to give an assurance that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) Bill would not be used as a 'backdoor' to legalising abortion in Northern Ireland. Precious Life said it would cause “a constitutional crisis” if Westminster were to change the law on abortion here without the support of the Assembly. The pro-life group say they will now intensify their postcard petition campaign calling on the government to acknowledge the people of Northern Ireland's opposition to abortion.
During prime minister’s question time (26th March), Gordon Brown was asked by Stormont First Minister Ian Paisley to give the people of Northern Ireland an assurance that the government would not support any attempt to use the HFE Bill to legalise abortion in Northern Ireland "by the backdoor". Mr Paisley added that all parties in Northern Ireland are opposed to this and any decision on abortion should be made by Stormont alone. The Prime minister gave no assurance, instead saying it was "a matter for the House of Commons".
Although the HFE Bill itself does not deal with abortion, the controversial legislation has provisions to allow amendments to the 1967 Abortion Act which could see it extended to the province.
Director of Precious Life, Bernadette Smyth said “Extending the Abortion Act would be against the wishes of the vast majority of people here. When a motion opposing abortion was debated in the Assembly in October 2007, Precious Life presented over 120,000 petitions against abortion signed by the people of Northern Ireland. That motion was passed, sending out a clear message that the Northern Ireland Assembly opposes any attempt to liberalise the law on abortion. It would cause a constitutional crisis if Westminster was now to over-ride the motion passed by the Assembly and legalise abortion in Northern Ireland without the consent of the people.”
She added “Since January, Precious Life has been distributing thousands of postcard petitions calling on the Secretary and Minister of State - Shaun Woodward and Paul Goggins - to ensure Westminster acknowledges the clear pro-life message sent out from our Assembly. We will now step up and intensify our postcard petition campaign.”
Bernadette Smyth concluded “Gordon Brown must acknowledge Northern Ireland's opposition to abortion. Westminster cannot be allowed to over-ride the democratic process here by attempting to impose abortion on Northern Ireland. The law here regarding abortion must be dealt with by the Northern Ireland Assembly only.”