10 reasons why Northern Ireland's pro-life laws matter
In our latest blog, we delve into international human rights law, embryonic science and a comprehensive body of research to outline ten reasons why Northern Ireland's pro-life laws matter.
1. Not only are unborn babies safer because abortion is not a legal reality; Women are also safer without abortion in Northern Ireland. Our maternal mortality rate is the lowest in the UK, and one of the lowest in in the entire world. Northern Ireland is one of the safest places for women globally, and one of the safest places to have a baby. This was proven through a landmark study carried out by various medical practitioners, which was published in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons (Summer 2013). Over 40 years of legalized abortion in Britain there has been a consistent pattern in which higher abortion rates have run parallel to higher incidence of stillbirths, premature births, low birth-weight neonates and cerebral palsy as sequelae of abortion. In contrast, both Irish jurisdictions consistently display lower rates of all morbidities and mortality associated with legalized abortion.
2. An unborn baby is a human being and a person deserving of human rights, by virtue of his or her humanity. At 16 days, the heart starts beating (British Heart Foundation) and by twelve weeks, a baby is fully formed with all of his or her bodily organs functioning and just needs time to grow. The sole purpose of the law in Northern Ireland is to protect the mother as well as her unborn child. Sections 58 and 59 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861 and section 25 of the Criminal Justice Act (NI) 1945 together recognise that the unborn child, at any and every stage of development, is a human being – a person – deserving of protection under the law.
3. Northern Ireland's pro-life laws prevent us from having the same cruel and extreme abortion regime as Britain. Although abortion advocates often use the most marginal, extreme and difficult cases to argue for a broad-based abortion platform – the ultimate long-term goal of the international abortion lobby. This relentless focus on the ‘hard’ cases often has the desired effect of skewing the debate surrounding abortion, and instead of addressing the fundamentals surrounding abortion, the majority of the focus is given to emotional and highly charged arguments. Although abortion supporters relentlessly rely on the hard cases – such as pregnancy through rape; incest; and babies with disabilities – as an excuse to legislate for abortion, these abortion advocates do not truly care about the hard cases. In reality, the ‘hard cases’ are just a ruse used in order to create public sympathy and cultivate demand for abortion on demand and without apology or restriction.
Hard cases make bad law. Looking at the global landscape, it is important to note that there isn’t a single country which has been able to legislate for abortion exclusively in these limited cases. Rather, in every nation where abortion has been introduced in any shape or form – often, for instance, to offer abortion for extreme and tragic circumstances – the door, when left ajar, has inevitably been pushed wide open. For instance, the Abortion Act of 1967 which introduced abortion into Britain, was initially brought in to offer a limited number of abortions in extremely restricted circumstances. Over 50 years on from the passing of the legislation and over 9 million unborn children have had their lives brutally ended under British law. Up to 40% of abortions in Britain are repeat abortions; 97% of abortions are carried out for social reasons; over 90% of babies prenatally diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome are aborted. Discriminatory abortion is a reality not only in Britain but throughout the world - in Denmark, they have set a goal to be a Down Syndrome free country by 2030. This can only be achieved through abortion.
Abortion is now an expectation as opposed to a so-called ‘choice’ for women; 5 decades of legalised abortion has eroded the moral fabric of Britain, totally diminishing any semblance of societal respect for human life and leaving millions of women, men and families broken and suffering. It is clear that hard cases make bad law. The vast majority of people in Northern Ireland do not support the liberal abortion regime implemented in England. Rather, abortion on demand is increasingly viewed by a vast number of people as cruel, unjust and unacceptable.
Department of Health, Abortion Statistics, England and Wales, 2015: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/570040/Updated_Abortion_Statistics_2015.pdf
Parliamentary Enquiry into Abortion Law on the Grounds of Disability, UK, 2013: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm140409/debtext/140409-0004.htm
Down Syndrome Heading for Extinction in Denmark: http://cphpost.dk/news/down-syndrome-heading-for-extinction-in-denmark.html
WHO European Health for all Database: https://gateway.euro.who.int/en/datasets/european-health-for-all-database/
4. There is no human right to abortion – our laws are compatible with legitimate human rights. Contrary to the incessant narrative from the abortion lobby that abortion is a human right, there isn’t a single legal treaty or convention acknowledging a supposed 'right' to abortion. A human right to abortion does not and cannot exist because the right to life of every person is widely recognised in international law as being the most fundamental and unalienable right upon which all other rights are built.
All human beings, as members of the human family, are entitled to recognition of their inherent dignity and to protection of their inalienable human rights. This is recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and other international instruments:
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights ‘[…] recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world’)
The European Convention on Human Rights ‘The principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are specifically endorsed in the European Convention on Human Rights and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.’
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. As indicated in the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, “the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth.”’
The right to life of all members of the human family, whether born or unborn, with or without a disability, irrespective of the crime committed against his or her mother, is enshrined in international human rights law.
5. The CEDAW Committee and UN Committees have no binding authority on NI’s laws
The Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW Committee) and other treaty monitoring bodies have directed governments to change their laws on abortion. These bodies have explicitly or implicitly interpreted the treaties to which they are subject as including a right to abortion. However, treaty monitoring bodies have no authority, either under the treaties that created them or under general international law, to interpret these treaties in ways that create new state obligations or that alter the substance of the treaties. This one specific treaty does not represent the views of the UN as a body.
Accordingly, any such body that interprets a treaty to include a right to abortion acts beyond its authority and contrary to its mandate. Such ultra vires acts do not create any legal obligations for states parties to the treaty, nor should states accept them as contributing to the formation of new customary international law.
6. Abortion hurts women and significantly increases the risk of mental health problems. Although clever marketing has been employed to advertise abortion as ‘pro-woman’ from countless abortion groups, this could not be further from the truth. Research shows that abortion carries an increased risk of mental health problems including anxiety, depression, alcohol and drug dependence, self-harm and suicidal behaviour.
The Fergusson Study: Evidence from a 30-Year Longitudinal Study (2008) concluded that there was a prominent link to abortion and mental health problems.
The Coleman Study: An analysis of 22 studies published in the British Journal of Psychiatry in 2011 showed that women who had had an abortion experienced an 81% increased risk of mental health problems including anxiety, depression, alcohol and drug dependence and suicidal behaviour. Nearly 10% of the incidence of mental health problems was attributable to abortion.
Denise Mountenay, the Founder of Canada Silent No More and Together for Life Ministries, has direct experience with rape, teen pregnancy and abortion. Denise was raped when she was just 13 and she has had 3 abortions, which she deeply regrets, “Legal abortion is damaging women. Our mental health. Our reproductive health. As well as causing breast cancer.”
Precious Life have spoken to and helped countless women who have been detrimentally impacted by abortion, and who testify that abortion did not help them escape their problems, but rather it only served to exacerbate them, creating unimaginable emotional turmoil. Women should never feel as though they have to kill their own children in order to be successful or happy.
7. The push for abortion totally disregards the principles of democracy and the reality that Northern Ireland has voted on this issue as recently as 2016. It is totally unacceptable for another government – such as Westminster – to try to override the democratic process and force their own abortion culture on Northern Ireland.
In April 2015, it was revealed that over 99% of the responses to the then Justice Minister David Ford MLA’s consultation of changing the law to allow abortion in cases of “lethal foetal abnormality and sexual crime” opposed any change in the law. 25,140 of the 25,320 responses to the consultation opposed any change in the law. Northern Ireland rejects not only abortion on demand, but abortion in every case.
As recently as 2016, our devolved government voted against any change to our life-saving laws – laws that safeguard mothers and unborn babies and have ensured that at least 100,000 people are alive today. An amendment to legalise the abortion of babies with life-limiting disabilities was defeated in Stormont in January 2016 by 59 votes to 40. The amendment to legalise the killing of babies conceived in rape or incest was defeated even more overwhelmingly, by 64 votes to 32.
Abortion – MLAs vote against legalisation in fatal foetal abnormality cases: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-35546399
8. There is no on-the-ground demand for abortion here in Northern Ireland. Huge support for our pro-life laws has been proven through the overwhelming response to Precious Life’s petition campaigns in recent years. On 28th November 2016, 300,000 pro-life petitions were presented at Stormont Parliament Buildings. These petitions, collected by Precious Life and presented on behalf of the pro-life majority in Northern Ireland, served as a powerful reminder to the Northern Ireland Assembly that unborn children must continue to be protected by our laws.
9. Our pro-life laws promote equality for all and ensure that our unborn children can never be discriminated against. Westminster’s attempts to push abortion onto Northern Ireland clearly undermine and endanger the peace process here. The spirit of the Good Friday agreement was all about respecting devolution, and was founded on the principles of full respect for and equality of all rights, and of freedom from discrimination for all people in Northern Ireland. Our unborn children must never be discriminated against. Their most fundamental right – the right to life – must always be respected and upheld.
10. In Northern Ireland, over 100,000 people are alive today because of our pro-life laws. By contrast, in Great Britain there have been almost 9 million abortions: one abortion every three minutes, 20 every hour and 600 every working day, with one in three pregnancies now ended by abortion. Britain now have abortion up to birth in the case of babies with disabilities – leading to 90 per cent of babies with Down’s syndrome being aborted – and of little girls merely because of their gender. We do not want this culture of death and eugenics in Northern Ireland.