Belfast Telegraph

Abortion plans will endanger women's health, say opponents

Precious Life’s Bernadette Smyth
Precious Life’s Bernadette Smyth
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

Pro-life campaigners have said government proposals for unrestricted abortion up to 12 or 14 weeks "open the door wide to serious endangerment of women's health and safety".

Ministers are obliged to introduce a system governing terminations by next spring after forcing the Northern Ireland Office to act in the absence of a devolved government at Stormont.

An official government consultation said: "Twelve weeks' gestation has been considered because it is the end of the first trimester of pregnancy and in England and Wales 90% of abortions are performed within this timeframe.

"However, an alternative approach would be allowing for a termination up to 14 weeks' gestation without conditionality as some women and girls may have been delayed in finding out that they are pregnant and others may need more time to reach a decision."

According to Precious Life director Bernadette Smyth, the proposed framework "goes far beyond the requirements of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Act 2019".

"This removes virtually all meaningful legal protections for babies in the womb and drops many of the legal safeguards provided by the 1967 Abortion Act in England and Wales," she said.

"The proposals open the door wide to serious endangerment of women's health and safety.

"The framework further seriously jeopardises the health and safety of women in Northern Ireland because it removes the requirement that two medical doctors sign off on an abortion."

The proposals say abortion without a time limit may be available in cases of fatal foetal abnormality, where a woman's life is at risk or where she is in danger of suffering a permanent injury.

Dawn McAvoy from Both Lives Matter was also scathing of the plans.

"It's taken the worst of the 1967 Act and written it into legislation, paving the way for complete demedicalisation of the vast majority of abortions and for establishing abortion rights up to birth," she said.

"This new abortion regime was imposed and introduced by pro-abortion activist MPs in order to enable a new abortion agenda in Britain.

"No unborn baby below the age of 28 weeks, or the stage at which she is capable of being born alive, is protected in laws."

But Alliance for Choice said the proposals should come "as no great surprise".

"Westminster was responsible for addressing these grave and systemic human rights abuses," added Emma Campbell.

"For those who are filled with horror at the apparent ease with which we will now be able to access reproductive healthcare, ask yourself, what is it about this ease that bothers you, because if you don't want to make it easy for women, why do you want to make it so hard?

"We are long past the days when motherhood is considered a punishment for errant sexual behaviour and we would like to think we can start and be treated as equals.

"It's time to realise our rights and realise them to the fullest and in the spirit of the human rights inquiry that we fought so hard for."

Amnesty International's Grainne Teggart said: "Following historic legislative reform, this is a critical opportunity to ensure a framework for abortion services which has choice and rights firmly at the centre.

"The new framework must be completely clear, both for those who need an abortion and the healthcare professionals providing it."

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