Thursday, 25 October 2012

Maries Stopes International, One week on

Outside the MSI abortion facility,  Great Victoria Street, Belfast.
Thursday 18 October 2012
One week ago, Thursday 18 October, the pro-life movement welcomed the news that the Justice Committee in Northern Ireland's devolved government was to launch an investigation into the operations of the Marie Stopes International (MSI) abortion facility which opened amid protests (pictured). The arrival of MSI has caused such widespread public concern that our laws protecting children before birth will be overturned that the Northern Ireland Assembly had no choice but to act against this direct challenge to the law.

If anything good could result from MSI parachuting in from London it is that in his letter to the chairman of the Justice Committee, John Larkin QC, the Attorney General, has spelt out the law in a clear, concise and easily understood summary.

Mr Larkin states: "As you know, abortion in Northern Ireland is a matter regulated by the criminal law primarily by two statutes; the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, and the Criminal Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 1945. The subject falls squarely within the jurisdiction of the [Justice] Committee. Abortion in Northern Ireland is a criminal offence which is punishable by a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. 

"An abortion carried out in Northern Ireland may [emphasis added] not result in a criminal liability if, on a trial for that offence, a jury considers that the person who procured it was a suitably qualified person1 who believed, and had reasonable grounds for believing2, that the continuation of the pregnancy would have created a risk to the life of the mother or would have probably caused serious and long-term harm to her physical or mental health. 

"It must be stressed that termination of a pregnancy based solely on the abnormality of an unborn child is always unlawful."3 

Abortion is not health care and in Northern Ireland it is a criminal offence. The Parliament of Northern Ireland rejected the British Abortion Act in 1967 and for the last 45 years the majority of the people and politicians have continued to oppose the liberalisation of our abortion laws. Through the long years of direct rule from London only the force of public opinion stopped successive British governments from imposing the Abortion Act on the Province. The last attempt to introduce it, in 2008 came only months before criminal justice powers were returned to local politicians. It failed because of the pressure brought to bear on the Prime Minister in London. 
It is vitally important that everyone in Northern Ireland lobbies their elected representatives to urge them to take all the necessary steps to ensure that Marie Stopes is unable to maintain its abortion centre in Belfast. 

Public opinion must demand action to shut this centre down. There is too much evidence of Marie Stopes's involvement in illegal abortions in other countries for claims that the Belfast centre will operate inside the law to hold any credibility.

This is probably the greatest threat against the right to life of Northern Ireland's unborn children. We need everyone to raise this issue with their politicians, in their churches and among their families and friends. The financial resources available to MSI are enormous; but the pro-life people of Northern Ireland have fought long against the threat of liberal abortion. They have worked too hard for the return of accountable democracy to see our laws and our devolved institutions swept aside by the abortion industry. I believe Marie Stopes have underestimated the level of opposition it faces from the people of Northern Ireland.

1 It appears therefore that, where the potential long term harm relied upon consists of harm to the mother’s mental health the opinion of a qualified specialist in psychiatry would be required to have been obtained and considered. 
2 In the case of R v Bourne (1939) 1KB 687, McNaughton J said, “If the doctor is of the opinion, on reasonable and with adequate knowledge, that the probable consequence of the continuation of the pregnancy will be to make the woman a physical or mental wreck, the jury are quite entitled to take the view that the doctor, who under those circumstances and in that honest belief, operates, is operating for the purpose of saving thelife of the 
3 See judgement of Sheil J at paragraph (9) and Nicholson LJ at paragraph (73) in the Family Planning Association v The Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (2004) NICA and (2004) NICA 39

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