Monday, December 12, 2016

Church urged to ‘step up to the plate’ and defend North’s unborn

The Catholic Church needs to speak up for Northern Ireland’s unborn children ahead of the biggest threat they have faced in years, a leading campaigner has said.

“We’re very hopeful that the Church will make a public statement in regard to this latest threat to Northern Ireland’s unborn children,” Precious Life founder Bernadette Smyth told The Irish Catholic ahead of a private member’s bill to legalise abortion in cases where unborn children are believed to have life-limiting conditions.

“In the past all the main Churches in Northern Ireland have spoken out in opposition to any change in the law which allows for abortion in those cases of life-limiting conditions,” she added. “We’re hopeful that the Churches will again step up to the plate and become vocal and pro-active.” 

Bill

Alliance leader and former Justice Minister David Ford MLA formally introduced the bill on the Assembly floor on December 6. It is expected to be debated in late January.

Among those opposing the bill is the Evangelical Alliance, which has contested its use of the term ‘fatal foetal abnormality’ as “confusing”, “offensive” and with “no medical meaning”. 

The Protestant group criticised the attempt to change the law when the Assembly rejected a similar proposal in February.

Explaining that the composition of the assembly has changed since the May 2016 elections, Ms Smyth said, “At this point in time, we have to be alert and prepared for the next stage of the battle because we have some elected MLAs who are strongly pro-abortion”, continuing “This would be the closest we would be to the change in the law since 2008, when the British government tried to extend the 1967 Abortion Act.” 

Ms Smyth expressed a hope that the SDLP will commit to opposing the bill, and said if this did not happen Precious Life would consider lobbying the DUP to introduce a ‘petition of concern’ to block the bill completely. 

In the meantime, she said, pro-lifers should “up the ante” in terms of lobbying and campaigning, and should be prepared for a rally for life at Stormont in January. 

Last week, Precious Life submitted a petition with 300,000 signatures to the Assembly, urging that the North be kept abortion-free.

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