Northern Ireland Health Dept Accused of Promoting Abortion, Defying Law

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Oct 3, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Northern Ireland Health Dept Accused of Promoting Abortion, Defying Law

by Steven Ertelt Editor
October 3
, 2008

London, England ( — The Northern Ireland health department stands accused of promoting abortion in defiance of the local law there that prohibits abortions. Northern Ireland has been a subject of considerable debate as MPs in the British Parliament consider extending the abortion law there.

Abortion is illegal in Northern Ireland unless the life of the mother is in danger or the continuation of the pregnancy would cause the woman very serious health issues.

John Smeaton, the head of the England-based Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, highlights the problem — which dates back to July.

Then, the Northern Ireland Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety issued a consultation paper on abortion. It suggests that local trusts "must ensure that its patients have access to termination of pregnancy services."

Smeaton writes, "At first glance, this seems depressingly par for the course until you reflect on the actual legal situation in the province. You then realize that the text is deeply misleading."

"Misinformation from the department of health seeking to promote abortion in Northern Ireland is matched by misinformation from the pro-abortion lobby in the House of Commons who are seeking to extend the Abortion Act to Northern Ireland this month," he adds.

Smeaton highlights comments from professor John Keown of Georgetown University in the United States, who says that the health department shouldn’t have urged local health facilities to make sure women have information on how to obtain abortions.

"The starting point of the Guidance should have been a clear statement of the illegality of abortion in Northern Ireland: that it is a crime punishable by a maximum of life imprisonment to use any means with intent to procure miscarriage, and an offence to supply means knowing that they are to be used with that intent," Keown writes.

"The Guidance should then have recalled the central if not sole purpose of this prohibition: the protection of the unborn child, a purpose which has informed the law against abortion for over 700 years," Keown continued.

A cross-party group of MPs is attempting to force the House of Commons to vote on an amendment to the controversial Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill later this year.

The British Parliament is expected to approve the bill, which allows hybrid human cloning and is expected to expand abortions in England, so pro-life advocates in Northern Ireland are pushing hard to prevent a vote on legalizing abortion there.

The Northern Ireland group Precious Life has been one of the leaders in condemning the plan to extend the 1967 abortion law to the region.

Bernadette Smyth, the director of Precious Life, told that doing so "against the wishes of the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland."

"In October 2007 a motion against abortion was passed that sent out a clear message to Westminster that the Northern Ireland Assembly opposes any attempt to liberalize the law on abortion," she said. "Over 120,000 petitions against abortion were also presented to the Assembly."

In May 2008, the leaders of the four main political parties united to co-sign a letter to all Westminster MPs stating their opposition to plans to extend the 1967 Abortion Act.

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