Abortion Law Must be Clarified

After a long battle through the courts, today “in Belfast three senior judges ordered the Department of Health to draw up guidelines on when abortions can be carried out under existing law.” The time and the cost of this legal argument, between the Family Planning Association and the Department of Health, to simply produce guidelines on the current legal position is an indictment of our politicians, of almost all parties, who have obstructed, directly and indirectly, any progress on this issue.

In the judgement, Lord Justice Nicholson said: “Abortion is a controversial subject. The available evidence supports the view that the vast majority of people do not wish to have the Abortion Act 1967 extended to Northern Ireland.”

He said the Family Planning Association wished to have the law changed to incorporate the Abortion Act but he was satisfied it recognised that any such change was a matter for Parliament and not the courts.

Lord Justice Nicholson said: “I consider that medical practitioners are not adequately aware of the principles that govern the law relating to abortion in Northern Ireland. ”

He added: “This judgement is written in the hope that the Department will seek to reduce the number of women and girls going away to seek an abortion and to encourage those seeking an abortion in Northern Ireland to make a different choice.

“It must surely be the concern of all right-thinking persons in the United Kingdom that the number of abortions is so high.”

In 2000 the Assembly backed a motion opposing the extension of the 1967 Abortion Act to NI. According to this BBC report the only party that opposed the motion, rather than the extension of the Act, was the PUP.

  • Davros

    This is such a difficult issue. Strikes right at the heart of a major fault-line in Irish Politics. Especially difficult for Sinn F

  • peteb

    It would seem to cause difficulties for all parties, Davros. But it is perhaps worth noting that if the SF minister for Health at the time had directed the Department to produce guidelines on this issue there would have been no three year long court action nor the associated costs.

  • Millie

    I can’t believe this is still a controversial issue. On the one hand NI is supposed to be a part of the UK, on the other it has a whole ream of legislation that sets it apart from the UK, the abortion law being the most glaring example. Ironically abortion is one area where north and south complement each other. Isn’t it time NI was dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century? And since direct rule ministers can get away with whatever they want, why not just extend the ’67 Abortion act over the heads of the NI electorate? After all, if no-one in NI votes or can vote for a party capable of forming a govt, what does it matter?

  • Davros

    “why not just extend the ’67 Abortion act over the heads of the NI electorate?”

    an Interesting idea.

  • Davros
  • Christopher Stalford

    “why not just extend the ’67 Abortion act over the heads of the NI electorate?”

    Perhaps because the majority of the people of Northern Ireland are opposed to the murder of unborn children?

  • Millie

    Thanks and very interesting stuff there Davros, didn’t think the Assembly debates were ever that exciting.

    And Christopher, how do you know since the people of NI have never been asked? And to be perfectly honest who cares what the people of NI think? Certainly not the British govt, because if you apply that criteria to the last 30 odd years then Stormont would never have been abolished, not to mention countless other acts that the ‘majority’ have been against.

    Abortion is not some minor legislation that the regional assemblies can pick and choose whether they want it or not, either NI is a part of the UK or it’s a fundamentalist, undemocratic rump, masquerading as a western liberal democracy.

  • JTX

    I think that when the issue of abortion is concerned it should be remembered that it is a fact. It happens whether it is legal or illegal. One the one hand you could say we are lucky that women who want to terminate their pregnancy for whatever reason are able to travel relatively easily to mainland UK to have it done safely. One the other it has to be considered that extra pressure and pain is inflicted on these women because NI takes a different position to the rest of the UK.
    Talking about the ‘murder of unborn children’ is overly emotive. Abortion happens and the best way to deal with it is with a clear head. there is no reaon why we should send women and girls to England to get abortions. The problem with NI is religion is too much a part of politics, on both sides.

  • Davros

    Some excellent speeches and an interesting voting pattern. Looks like John Kelly abstained.

  • Dag

    I remember vaguely the 67(?) Abortion debate in the UK. As a brainwashed Catholic of the Christian Brothers I had not yet reached a point of thinking of a political decision on the matter; it didn’t matter as I lived in Dublin. And yet for such insensitives I remember that it was a very emotive issue, even for us males. The mother whose life was threatened was the chief issue, rather than backstreet abortions. It was like a theological wrestling match with the church about the value of one life over the other. Since then I have learnt that even in Christian doctrine the mother’s life takes priority. But this is not an argument for abortion. It was the same with homosexuality – we repressed Catholics were perhaps even more aware of the issues than folk today, who think it is just showbusiness. Morris West (THe Devil’s Advocate) was the main arena of discussion on the matter- even before the issue became an ‘artifical’ cause celebre. My point is- don’t think that Christian Brothers’ brainwashed boys were ever really brainwashed.