Abortion in Northern Ireland- Part 2: the Importance of a Christian Voice in the Public Square

In this, the final of our blog posts on abortion I’m going to explain a little bit more about the advocacy work that CARE has been doing; highlighting the need for a Christian voice in the abortion debate to ensure that Christian values and principles are heard and promoted within government.

Last February CARE supported Paul Givan as he brought the Severe Fetal Impairment Abortion (Amendment) Bill (SFIAA Bill) before the NI Assembly. As stated in the previous blog about abortion,  NI now as some of the most permissive abortion laws in Europe and this Bill aimed to amend one element of the Abortion (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2020. The Bill proposed the removal of Regulation 7(1)(b) which allows for abortion up to term for pregnancies where there is a diagnosis of a “severe fetal impairment” (SFI), that is, where “if the child were born, it would suffer from such physical or mental impairment as to be seriously disabled.” There is a lot of technical jargon there, so let’s unpack that, what does it mean in reality?

In England and Wales evidence shows abortions under SFI have included babies with conditions such as Downs Syndrome, Club Foot and Cleft Palate. At CARE we believe that every baby deserves the right to live and that this provision in the 2020 Regulations perpetuates unnecessary and outdated stereotypes against people with disabilities. For those reasons we supported Paul Givan and subsequently Christopher Stalford as they progressed this Bill and took a public stance against abortion. Unfortunately, the Bill was defeated at Consideration Stage following a concerning change in stance from a number of MLAs from a seemingly pro-life position to pro-choice. This situation highlights why we need to elect MLAs who will stand for life affirming laws and who are willing to take a bold stance.

This mandate has also witnessed the passing of the Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) Bill, at CARE NI we’re troubled by reports of women being harassed as they access these services.  However, the passing of this Bill through the Assembly as set a troubling precedent which may have a profoundly negative effect on Christian freedoms, including curtailing religious liberty.

Finally, the MLAs that we elect for the next mandate will also have to navigate the commissioning of abortion services and the challenges that will bring.  If we take a step back and look at the broader picture, legislatively, we may appear beat but we are not defeated. Abortion is not the only life issue that we need to consider. If we look to Westminster, Scotland and RoI the issue of Assisted Suicide is becoming more prominent and if these laws pass they would set a disturbing precedent.

Now more than ever we need MLAs with strong convictions, who value life and understand that every life deserves to be protected. In finishing I’d like to leave you with these words from Billy Graham, ‘ Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.’ Let’s make courageous decisions at the polling stations and elect courageous MLAs who will be responsible for making decisions which will impact our lives and the lives of the next generation! //Rebecca Stevenson (CARE NI Policy Officer)


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