10 July 2019, The Tablet

Pro-life organisations outraged as Westminster backs NI abortion and gay marriage amendments

Northern Irish pro-life organisation, Precious Life, described the vote as the 'gravest betrayal of democracy in living memory'.

Pro-life organisations outraged as Westminster backs NI abortion and gay marriage amendments

File photo dated 10/9/2018 of Stella Creasy who put forward the amendment to abortion laws in Northern Ireland
Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire/PA Images

Pro-life organisations have reacted with outrage after Westminster MPs overwhelmingly voted to liberalise Northern Ireland’s abortion and gay marriage laws.

An amendment to allow abortion in Northern Ireland, if a new power-sharing government was not formed, was passed by 332 votes to 99 on 9 July in the House of Commons.

MPs also voted on a proposal to allow same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland, which was passed by 383 votes to 73.

Northern Irish pro-life organisation, Precious Life, described the vote as the “gravest betrayal of democracy in living memory”.

Bernadette Smyth, Director of Precious Life, on Tuesday night said: “Today represents one of the darkest and most tragic days for the people of Northern Ireland and for vulnerable unborn children and mothers here. This vote by pro-abortion MPs at Westminster is abhorrent for so many reasons; it is the gravest betrayal of democracy in living memory. This vote totally disregards the crucial principles of devolution and must be resisted at all costs.”

She said Westminster MPs had done the “unthinkable” in voting “over the heads”, and ignoring the democratic will, of the people of Northern Ireland.

“If passed, this Bill will introduce one of the most horrific, extreme and cruel abortion laws in the world, making abortion legal on demand right through to 28 weeks of pregnancy. This cruel and devastating abortion agenda is not supported by the people of Northern Ireland,” Ms Smythe continued.

Likewise, leading pro-life charity, Life, said they strongly condemned the “hijacking of the Northern Ireland bill” calling Tuesday’s vote a “dark day for women and their unborn children”.

Life’s Spokeswoman Clara Campbell said: “We condemn this move by some patronising Westminster politicians to impose abortion on the people of Northern Ireland despite their representative assembly rejecting it just three years ago. What we are seeing here is a mad opportunistic rush by allies of the abortion lobby to exploit the current absence of the Northern Ireland Assembly to bully the people of Northern Ireland into accepting abortion.”

She continued: “We note that just recently a ComRes poll showed that 66 per cent of women in Northern Ireland do not want abortion law imposed on them.”

The Primate of All Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin, warned prior to the vote that there was something “particularly cynical in taking advantage of the present political crisis to remove the right to life of the most vulnerable of our people; the unborn baby. The common good cannot be served in this way". 

Bishop John Sherrington of Westminster described the move as “the most serious threat to the life of the unborn child in modern times”, in a statement last week. He appealed to Catholics to contact their Member of Parliament requesting that they vote against the proposal as a matter of urgency.

Same sex marriage is not legal in Northern Ireland and abortions are allowed only in very limited circumstances.

Stella Creasy, the Labour MP who has led the push for abortion rights, said in a tweet following the vote: “Thank you to everyone who today stood up for equality in Northern Ireland – whether for same-sex marriage or abortion, today we have said everyone in the UK deserves to be treated as an equal. There’s a road to go yet but today a big step forward.”

Labour’s shadow Northern Ireland secretary, Tony Lloyd, said that parliament had “voted to ensure that love no longer has borders and women are not treated as second-class citizens”.

The two amendments mean that if the Stormont assembly, which has not sat since the start of 2017 amid deadlock between the DUP and Sinn Féin, has not been restored by October 21 then the government is compelled to change the law in Northern Ireland.

Asked about Tuesday's vote during a Conservative leadership debate on ITV, Jeremy Hunt said he would support the move while Boris Johnson said it was a matter for the people of Northern Ireland and “one of the most important reasons for getting Stormont up and running”.

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