Northern Ireland news

Pro-life campaigner describes Referendum vote as 'wake-up call' for Northern Ireland

As pressure intensifies for a change to Northern Ireland's abortion laws following the Republic's historic referendum vote, a leading pro-life campaigner tells health correspondent Seanín Graham what the next stage is in her drive to maintain our existing laws

Pro-life campaigner Dawn McAvoy
Seanín Graham

AN anti-abortion group is planning to step up its campaign to raise awareness of "life affirming" services for women facing crisis pregnancies in Northern Ireland in the wake of the Republic's landmark referendum.

Dawn McAvoy, who heads up Both Lives Matter, said they were concerned about the impact of the Stormont stalemate on specialist ante-natal and post-natal care for those women facing a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality.

And she said they will continue to lobby to ensure that any change to existing abortion laws in the north remain a devolved matter amid mounting pressure for Westminster to intervene.

Ms McAvoy's group is one of nine pro-life organisations which penned an open letter to British prime minister Theresa May earlier this week on the issue.

Abortion is only permitted in the north in cases where the woman's life is at risk or there is a permanent or serious risk to her mental or physical health.

Speaking to the Irish News, Ms McAvoy described the landslide vote to change the Republic's constitutional ban on abortion as a "wake-up call" for "so many people" in Northern Ireland.

"We have seen an increase in people contacting us since last weekend and what we realise is that there has been a lot apathy but things are changing," she said.

"Our concern is about the lack of information out there on what services do exist for women facing crisis pregnancies and those with a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality. We want to highlight what life-affirming alternatives are in place, such as counselling and other healthcare support, to inform their decision making process.

"Irish people have made an overwhelming decision and we respect that. But we also want to educate so that a women in crisis doesn't just feel she has no other option but an abortion."

The campaigner said she was also mindful they wanted to set the "tone" and have a "respectful" debate.

"Both sides want to show the woman compassion...our concern is for women using these services."

She added: "In our political vacuum we will continue to communicate with Westminster and travel there if necessary to ensure any change to the law is a matter for a devolved government."

Meanwhile, another pro-life group have said they are "determined to keep fighting" to prevent any changes to existing legislation.

Precious Life director Bernie Smyth said its 'Lobby for Life Campaign' was "crucial" to ensuring the Republic's referendum result had no impact north of the border.

"We agree with Arlene Foster when she says the referendum result has no impact upon the law in Northern Ireland," she said.

"The law in Northern Ireland protects both mother and child. Without abortion, Northern Ireland is one of the safest place in the world for women to give birth," Ms Smyth said.


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