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Emergency debate on abortion could see laws liberalised further

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MPs on Tuesday (June 5th) debated whether or not Westminster should step in to change the abortion laws in Northern Ireland as well as England and Wales, which could see abortion on demand decriminalised up to birth.

Trojan horse

In an emergency debate in which Stella Creasy (Lab), proposed repealing sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Persons Act (OAPA) 1861, pro-life MP’s made accusations that the debate was acting as a trojan horse.

“The proposers of this debate clearly want to go further,” said Fiona Bruce (Con). “They want to decriminalise our legislation, they want to remove the safeguards that [are] in place. Already we have some of the most liberal abortion laws in the world, and yet campaigners want to liberalise them further.

“Colleagues should be under no illusions: repealing these sections of the OAPA would effectively pave the way to review comprehensively our current abortion legislation – not just for Northern Ireland but also for England and Wales. We could see abortion on demand throughout pregnancy. That would be wrong, and we should resist it.”

While Stella Creasy said that repealing sections of OAPA would have no impact on Infant Life (Preservation) Act 1929, Fiona Bruce challenged this and encouraged members to gain legal advice before making a decision on this issue.

Pro-abortion completely ignores rights of the child

The debate was generally quite civil and was very passionate and at times emotional, however not once did those who supported repealing the relevant sections of OAPA mention the rights of the unborn child. This is something which pro-life MPs didn’t fail to notice.

“This debate has two sides to it,” said Sammy Wilson (DUP). “Of course it’s got the views of those people who wish to control their own bodies. But it’s also got the side which I think has been lacking in most of the speeches – [that] is, what about the unborn child?”

“It is my belief that a child is a child from conception, as can increasingly be seen through medical advances,” said Jim Shannon (DUP).

Northern Ireland tells Westminster: abortion is a matter for us to decide – not you

While the ramifications of repealing sections of OAPA could be wide reaching for England and Wales as well as Northern Ireland, the debate surrounding Northern Ireland continued, with MPs saying that it was time for Westminster to make a change. MPs from Northern Ireland were unhappy with the fact that Westminster is trying to take this decision away from them.

“Abortion has always been a devolved matter in Northern Ireland and it would not be appropriate for Westminster to seek to impose it’s will or be the arbiter of this issue that has long been devolved to the people of Northern Ireland,” said Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Karen Bradley (Con).

100,000 people alive in Northern Ireland because of current abortion laws

MPs from Northern Ireland not only defended the right of the Northern Ireland Assembly to make a decision on abortion themselves, they also defended the abortion law in Northern Ireland and the benefits it has had for their country.

“I am proud of the fact that there are so many people alive in Northern Ireland today because we have a law that respects the rights of women and the unborn child,” said Jeffery Donaldson (DUP).

“This is why I am not embarrassed about the laws that we have, and why I do not believe that we have turned the clock back,” said Sammy Wilson challenging the much repeated and flawed idea that abortion is progressive. “100,000 people are alive in Northern Ireland today who would otherwise have been killed before they were even born.”

What next?

At the end of the debate the House agreed that it had considered the role of the UK Parliament in repealing sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. It is thought that this proposal could be added as an amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill which may be debated in Parliament later this year. In any case, it is likely that this is not the end of battles over abortion in Parliament. We thank God for the boldness of the pro-life MPs who spoke out in this debate and pray for their continued boldness in the face of increasing pressure on this issue.

To read a full transcript of the debate see Hansard.

A video of the full three-hour debate can be found here.