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House Committee delivers report promoting abortion liberalisation in Northern Ireland

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Back in February, Christian Legal Centre’s Roger Kiska appeared before a parliamentary select committee as the only pro-life representative, giving evidence on the issue of decriminalising abortion in Northern Ireland. The evidence he presented moved some members to take up his position. Roger now comments on the report published by the House of Commons, which sadly promotes the liberalisation of abortion.

On the 25 of April, the House of Commons’ Women and Equalities Committee issued its report on Abortion Law in Northern Ireland. The report was preceded by a public consultation, where 85% percent of those who made submissions advocated for leaving the law as it is (page 59 of the report). The Christian Legal Centre (CLC) were among the experts tapped to provide oral evidence to the committee.

In addition to our written submission, I had the honour and daunting task of representing the CLC before the Committee as the sole pro-life voice on the panel. I say daunting because rather than discussing the threshold issue of if Westminster even had the authority to interfere with Northern Ireland’s abortion law, the committee began from the position of how it could interfere with the law. While my trying to take the committee to task for making this leap made the hearing contentious at times, I was heartened to see that many of my positions were in fact taken up by several committee members who drafted a competing report which unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, failed to obtain the requisite majority of committee votes. I do believe our presence made an impact and I am grateful to our supporters for empowering us to be able to engage Parliament at such a high level.

As I have written in a previous article, the premise of the report was based on two events, neither of which have any actual legal effect nor empower Parliament to intervene in the affairs of Northern Ireland in relation to their laws protecting the unborn child. The first was the CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women) report, purely advisory in nature, drafted by a committee of abortion advocates who think that abortion should be decriminalised in all circumstances and in all nations (para 58). In summarising my testimony on the CEDAW question, the committee at paragraph 61 of its report said the following:

“Legal experts discussed the status of the CEDAW Committee’s Report in the oral evidence session on 27 February 2019. Roger Kiska of the Christian Legal Centre told us it was “fallacious” to suggest that nations that prohibited abortion would allow themselves to be bound by a UN Committee. He said: “The committee themselves are not lawyers. They are not judges. It is not a court. It is a periodic review. It is a non-binding document. The underpinning of this meeting is just misleading.”

The second is the recent Supreme Court ruling on the issue which is also non-binding as the complainant did not have legal standing to bring the claim in the first place. Nonetheless, certain members of the court went to great lengths to vilify the unborn child, including its President, Lady Hale, who likened an unwanted child to a parasite in paragraph 7 of the opinion.

Despite the shaky premise on which the report is based, and despite the overwhelming support among those who made submissions that the current law be retained, the committee went completely in the other direction. Among its most curious proposals, which are highlighted in the report’s summary beginning from page 4 of the document, are:

  • to solve the problem of illegal, and possibly unsafe, abortion drugs entering Northern Ireland by legalising abortion (which is tantamount to arguing that the illegal importing of heroin can be solved simply by legalising it);
  • to allow those who have entered the European Union illegally to come to the UK for free abortions;
  • to ignore one of the most fundamental rules of procedure and natural justice by calling on Parliament to grant the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission standing to bring cases whenever it wishes, in essence inviting a glorified campaign organisation to challenge laws they do not like with impunity.

As I make reference to earlier in this article, a second competing report was also drafted and supported by some of the members of the committee which is reproduced in full from page 58 of the report. The competing report, drafted by Eddie Hughes, Conservative MP from Walsall North, calls on Parliament to respect the principle of devolution and the 85% of submissions calling on the committee to adhere to the current law. It notes that there are no legal judgments outstanding which empower or require Parliament to act. It further notes that no member of the committee actually even represents a constituency in Northern Ireland. That report was rejected on 3 April 2019 by committee members.

Ultimately, the committee has no authority or competency to order anything be done in relation to Northern Ireland. In any event, the liberalisation of abortion in limited circumstances has never been the end game of the committee. It has been abortion on demand and the decriminalisation of abortion.

The report laments that only 12 abortions took place in Northern Ireland in 2017/2018. This is compared to nearly 200, 000 abortions in England and Wales during the same time period.

We should be concerned by the utter lack of humanity shown by the members of the committee, and the members of our Supreme Court for that matter. We should be equally dismayed by the willingness among some of our members of parliament to circumvent the rule of law and run roughshod over basic principles of representative democracy with the sole aim of making it easier and more widespread to end the life of an unborn child.

A society should be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable, in this case the unborn. I fear history will not be kind to us in the United Kingdom. Nor should it. As a society we must do better.