Theresa Villiers, (pictured right) the Conservative MP for Chipping Barnet in the Greater London area has been appointed Secretary of State for Northern Ireland by Prime Minister David Cameron. The position no longer carries the importance it once had for the pro-life cause but as Ms Villiers will be taking over from Owen Paterson who was reputed to be pro-life on abortion it is unfortunate that she is one of the two dozen or so Tory MPs who voted against all attempts to lower the upper limit on abortion in 2008. She also supported legalisation of experiments to create animal-human hybrids. While the time limit approach has proven to be a disastrous failure in advancing the right to life of children before birth, the amendments tabled to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) Act in 2008 mean that at least we know where Ms Villiers stands.
Thankfully attempts to use the HFE Act to introduce the British abortion law to Northern Ireland fell when the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown cut short the time set aside to debate the issue. The anti-life lobby in Westminster would almost certainly have succeeded had it not been for determined opposition from within the Assembly. At a rally outside Stormont, Saturday 18 October 2008, Jeffrey Donaldson, MP for Lagan Valley, (pictured) told a crowd of thousands that if Westminster attempted to force the Abortion Act on Northern Ireland he as a Minister in the Executive would refuse to implement it. By Tuesday 21 October the Prime Minister had pulled the plug on all attempts to widen the Abortion Act. Facing a number of serious political problems Mr Brown must have decided that a constitutional crisis between Parliament and the Assembly was something he could do without. Shortly afterward power over the abortion issue was devolved to the Assembly and the threat from the abortion lobby in Westminster was greatly diminished. As long as the political arrangement within Northern Ireland remains stable it will be difficult for the pro-abortion lobby to overturn the current law in the near future.
Regrettably the Assembly has no power over the workings of the HFE Act and the widespread practice of IVF remains a problem that urgently needs to be addressed.