The framework for a transformation of Northern Ireland abortion law proposed by the Northern Ireland Office goes much further than the more limited changes required by the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation and Exercise of Functions Act) 2019. Despite negligible support for abortion up to 24 weeks and the fact that abortion was a devolved matter, the Westminster Government removed protections to the life of the unborn child with chilling alacrity. The imposition of such draconian and unjust legislation ensures that the issue will never cease to be contentious.
Compounding the situation, the NIO have further overreached by proposing abortion on demand through to either 12 or 14 weeks for any reason, including sex-selective abortions. In particular, the disabled, including those with Down’s syndrome, would be unjustly targeted should abortion on grounds of disability become available up to birth. We are deeply concerned that the ‘New Legal Framework’ will help to facilitate a significant increase in the number of disabled unborn children who are aborted in our society.
Any suggestion that there should be no legal limit on the locations where abortions can take place is totally unacceptable, not least because of the risk to the life and health of pregnant women should complications arise during an abortion.
The direct and intentional killing of innocent human beings by means of abortion ignores the right to life of the unborn. For this reason all Christians and people of goodwill are obliged in conscience not to cooperate formally in abortion services, even if permitted by civil legislation. Consequently, the statutory right to exercise conscientious objection should provide all health professionals including midwives, nurses, pharmacists, administration staff and ancillary staff working in hospitals and other community settings with the opportunity to refuse to participate in any aspect of the delivery of abortion services.
While the new legal framework will always reflect a totally unjust law without any morally binding force, it remains our view that such a framework for abortion services in Northern Ireland should not go beyond what the law requires.