Martin O'Brien: How is it we strive to save lives during pandemic yet allow far-reaching abortion regulations?

Martin O'Brien
Martin O'Brien

As you read this countless brave doctors and nurses and their support teams are moving heaven and earth to save many thousands of Covid-19 patients who are fighting for their lives.

Many will die but it will not be for any lack of effort by those heroes who are risking their own lives to save others.

Much of the world is in lockdown and we are at the beginning of a global recession with the loss of millions of jobs for the same reason: to save life.

That is because devotion to the protection of human life is a mark of our civilisation and a badge of our common humanity.

I am sure I am not the only one who has noticed the discordancy between on one hand, the heroic efforts to save life on such a massive scale, and on the other, Northern Ireland's appalling new abortion laws - in some respects worse than the evil GB 1967 Act - that come into force tomorrow.


Appalling if you think it is appalling that an unborn baby with Down's syndrome or another disability can be killed at any time before birth.

Appalling if you think that an abortion for the purposes of, for example, sex-selection can take place up to 12 weeks without any questions being asked under the new “without conditionality” provision that contributes to our new abortion regime being even worse than Britain's.

Appalling if you think it is OK to have no offence of a coercive abortion and not enough conscience protections for medical professionals.

Space does not permit me to go on and on.

It is hard not to think that policy makers in London have driven these regulations through so they can justify a more liberal regime over there.

These regulations emanating from the legislation imposed by Westminster last year when Stormont was suspended “are far more horrible than we feared,” someone representative of mainstream pro-life opinion told me.

Such has been the justified preoccupation with the coronavirus pandemic few, including the media and Churches - with the honourable exception of the Presbyterian Church whose Moderator, Dr William Henry promptly called the new legal framework “deeply sad and worrying” - apparently have had the time to digest the import of the regulations that were laid before Parliament in Westminster on Wednesday.

This unconscionable legislation goes far further than what people right across our society, of all religions and none are prepared to stomach and is a flagrant assault on democracy and on the principle of devolution.

The place for abortion law to be made is in our assembly at Stormont and nowhere else with MLAs voting according to their conscience.

When the coronavirus crisis is over one of the assembly's urgent priorities must be to ensure that we have abortion laws that reflect the wishes of people here and not in London, bearing in mind the NIO's own admission that 79 pc of respondents to last autumn's consultation oppose such fundamental change.

That will not be easy and legal opinion is said to be divided on what is possible.

Arlene Foster of the DUP, to her credit, is the only party leader to have publicly objected to the new dispensation while Michelle O'Neill of Sinn Féin, to her shame, is “glad” with these British-imposed rules and Colum Eastwood of the SDLP is deafeningly silent although many members of his assembly party are thought to be privately aghast.

Ms O'Neill and Mr Eastwood, as political leaders in Northern Ireland, cannot just blame Westminster or the government because in the absence of acting against these iniquitous laws they own them.

They more than anyone else must answer questions such as: “Do I support abortion up to birth on grounds of Down's syndrome?”

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