Belfast Telegraph

Wisdom of Solomon needed on abortion

Editor's Viewpoint

Along with same sex marriages, abortion is one of the most contentious social issues in Northern Ireland. Indeed, it has taken years even for guidelines clarifying how medical professionals can operate under the current abortion legislation to be issued.

The province has the strictest abortion laws in the UK and attempts to liberalise them to bring them into line with the 1967 Abortion Act operating elsewhere have been strenuously opposed by a majority of politicians.

Recently, attempts to allow terminations in the case of fatal foetal abnormality have failed, showing the depth of opposition to even limited change in the laws.

Away from the purely political arena, the pro-life and pro-choice lobby groups have waged high-profile campaigns arguing the cases for and against liberalisation of the law.

It was one such campaign, organised by the Both Lives Matter group, which led to a recent challenge.

The advertising campaign argued that 100,000 people are alive in the province today because of our strict abortion laws, but 14 complaints were made to the Advertising Standards Authority that this claim was misleading. An investigation involving a statistical expert was undertaken into the claim and the ASA concluded "that there was a reasonable probability that around 100,000 people were alive in Northern Ireland today who would have otherwise been aborted had it been legal to do so".

Given the standing and independence of the ASA, this is a tremendous shot in the arm for the Both Lives Matter group and others opposing changes in the abortion law.

The pro-life campaigners will now be able to claim that this is a credible figure, and it is an emotive statement with which to press their case.

Of course, opponents will claim that abortion is a complex issue which cannot be reduced to a simple headline which takes no account of how women denied an abortion may have coped or the circumstances which may have driven them to seek an abortion, had it been legal here.

The nature of the debate has often been of two sides taking absolutist positions - one arguing the primacy of the unborn child, the other the right of the mother to choose what happens to her body.

It is a debate which will continue to be heated and intense.

Politicians will need the wisdom of Solomon to resolve it.

Belfast Telegraph

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