Friday, 26 October 2012

Human rights, hysteria and media witch-hunts

"Not the Stormont Justice Committee"
Examination of a Witch, by T.H. Matteson 1853. Courtesy of the Peabody Essex Museum
In a diatribe against everyone who opposes the opening of the Marie Stopes International (MSI) abortion facility in Belfast, columnist, Brian Feeney, (Witchfinder should drop idea of 'clinic inquisition'  Irish News 24 October 2012) seems oblivious to the irony of condemning the use of "inflammatory language" whilst speaking himself in almost hysterical terms about witch-trials, inquisitions and "policing women's bodies." 

He calls Northern Ireland's Minister of Health, Edwin Poots, a flat-earther, but if such labels are to be used in the abortion debate they would more accurately apply to those who deny the scientific fact that life begins at fertilisation and that the child in the womb is fully human with a unique genetic code. Such a child is not part of a woman's body and not the property of his or her parents to be discarded. The Convention on the Rights of the Child recognises that: "the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth". The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that all members of the human family must be recognised as persons before the law, regardless of birth or any other status. Northern Ireland’s laws attempt to defend these rights.

Irish News columnist
(and contestant on the
BBC's Round Britain Quiz)
Mr Feeney (pictured) is also mistaken in his belief that the publication of DHSSPS guidelines on abortion has anything to do with the legality of the MSI centre. Abortion in Northern Ireland is not "regulated" as he suggests, it remains a criminal offence. 

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children has twice taken legal action to have misleading and illegal guidance withdrawn before Mr Poots took office. Since then he has ordered a review of abortion figures and proposals for auditing data on abortions. Far from dodging the issue as Mr Feeney claims, the current health minister has done more to try to shed light on abortions in Northern Ireland than any of his predecessors. However, this is beside the point. Guidelines are merely guidelines and do not change the law. And it is the law not health service guidance which MSI has challenged by its offer of routinely providing abortions for money. 

Abortion kills children and hurts women. While Mr Feeney may welcome the arrival of a multi-national abortion business, the legislative and legal authorities in Northern Ireland have a duty to act when the law is challenged.

It is almost redundant to point this out but for the sake of those who aren't aware of the on-going media attacks on John Larkin since he suggested the Justice Committee look into the legality of the MSI abortion centre... if anyone can complain about a witch-hunt it is the Attorney General himself. Presumably, advocates of abortion in the media see Mr Larkin as a real threat to the continued presence of MSI in Northern Ireland.

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