Carla Lockhart, DUP MLA for Upper Bann, argues in favour of retaining the 8th amendment.
In recent weeks and months a passionate debate has been taking place right across Ireland on the subject of abortion. This Friday, a referendum will take place in the Republic of Ireland on whether or not the 8th amendment to the Irish Constitution, which upholds the value and worth of both mothers and unborn babies, should be removed. In Northern Ireland, three councils have recently debated the issue of abortion with varying outcomes. Lisburn and Castlereagh and Newry, Mourne and Down Councils have voted to affirm that the lives of both mothers and unborn children matter in pregnancy while Belfast City Council has voted in favour of the decriminalisation of abortion here.
Without doubt, this is a sensitive subject which inspires passionate and deeply held views. As a politician, I come at this with the belief that in pregnancy both lives matter. The mother and unborn baby are both human persons, who are worthy of dignity and respect. Biologically it is an indisputable fact that every single human person began their life at the point of conception. In my view, where there is human life it should be upheld and protected. This should be the case from the womb to the tomb. Every human life regardless of gender, disability or race should be protected. As J R R Tolkien put it in the Lord of the Rings, “Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.” Law and policy should uphold human life, even when it is tiny. There is not, and in my opinion there should not be, a human right to end human life.
This is not a viewpoint exclusive to Unionism. Individuals right across this society, regardless of their position on the Irish border, their gender, sexual orientation, disability, race or religious belief, can and do hold this belief. It has been wonderful for me to engage and meet individuals across the political spectrum articulating this view with insight and clarity. Figures like Anne Brolly, Dr Anne McCloskey and Alban Maginness, who would disagree with me on many (indeed probably most!) other political issues have been some of the best advocates for the reality that both lives in pregnancy do indeed matter.
Recently I had the pleasure of meeting Lord David Alton for the first time. This is a man who has given his life to upholding the value of life from beginning to end for over 40 years in British politics. He comes from a different political (viewpoint) perspective to me, but he is a man I deeply admire and respect. In an article published last year he said this: “Prove to me that life does not begin at conception and I will change my mind about protecting that new life. Until then, I will continue to insist on Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – that everyone “has the right to life.” I wholeheartedly agree.
I’m proud that my party, the Democratic Unionist Party, has been from its very inception a party which believes both lives matter. Democratic Unionists have consistently spoken and voted for law and policy which upholds the value and worth of both mothers and unborn children. This is our policy.
The referendum is entirely a matter for the people of the Republic of Ireland. I hope they choose to uphold the 8th amendment. However, whatever happens in the referendum, we will continue to defend the unborn and advocate for pro-life law and policy in Northern Ireland.
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