DUP leader Arlene Foster has distanced herself from remarks by MLA Jim Wells comparing the number of people murdered in Nazi concentration camps with abortion.
Responding to questions yesterday about the comparison made by the South Down MLA, Mrs Foster said: “I don’t agree with that.
“I think it’s the wrong use of language and again it brings us back to the fact that this is a very emotive issue and people need to be aware of that when they are discussing it,” she told UTV.
The DUP leader was also asked about comments by East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson during Tuesday’s Westminster debate on Northern Ireland’s abortion law when he talked about foetuses being “discarded and put in a bin”.
Mrs Foster said: “This is hugely emotive subject and it is a very sensitive subject and I think everybody needs to bear that in mind when they are making comments in relation to this issue.
“That doesn’t take away from the fact that people feel very strongly about this on both sides of the argument. But you know the debate has to be had and I believe the debate should be had in the Assembly, that’s where it should happen.”
Speaking on Radio Ulster’s Nolan Show yesterday, Mr Wells said that more people had been killed in Britain through abortion since 1967 than in the Nazi concentration camps.
He was discussing the issue with journalist Malachi O’Doherty who said that there was a huge cultural division between the DUP’s attitude to abortion and moral issues and that of the “ordinary British parliamentarian”.
Mr O’Doherty said: “If the DUP does (see abortion as murder) then you are saying that these people are effectively like the Nazis, that there’s something worse than the Holocaust happening in England.” The DUP MLA replied: “I don’t think he’s too far wrong.”
Mr Wells, who had the party whip withdrawn last month after criticising the leadership, added that “9.2m people have had their lives terminated through abortion in Britain since 1967”.
“That is actually more than the number of lives murdered in the gas and concentration camps of Auschwitz and Buchenwald,” he said. “It is a ghastly situation — we are killing human beings. These are sentient human beings who have every right to life, who have every right to be protected.”
Host Stephen Nolan asked Mr Wells if it was fair to make such a comparison with the Nazis.
He said: “I think the numbers are a fair comparison because these human beings have been killed.
“I said yes in the sense that the number of human beings who have been killed in the rest of the UK far exceed the ghastly concentration camps of Germany.
“These are human beings, they are people who have been killed in the womb. I don’t support the killing of any human being and abortion has got completely out of control in the United Kingdom.”
The DUP MLA continued: “Two hundred thousand human beings are killed each year. I believe the child in the womb is a person, a person who has got rights and a person who is given no choice when the decision is made to terminate their lives — 98.8% of these people are healthy normal babies.”
Later in the programme Mr Wells clarified that he didn’t believe women who had abortions were like Nazis but that the number of lives lost was comparable. He described it as a “staggering loss of life”.
South Down Sinn Fein MP Chris Hazzard criticised Mr Wells’ comments on Twitter.
“I’m happy to say that Jim Wells’ archaic views do not reflect the vast, vast majority of #SouthDown community. He is increasingly unfit to be a political representative in 2018,” he said.
The debate on Northern Ireland’s abortion law has intensified after the Republic’s landmark referendum vote to liberalise its legislation.
There is growing pressure on Theresa May to step in and change the law here. But the Prime Minister has insisted that abortion is a devolved issue and that any decision to alter the status quo must be made by the Stormont Assembly.
Several Tory MPs spoke in favour of liberalising the law here at an emergency debate on the issue in the House of Commons.
The DUP withdrew the whip from Jim Wells over his stinging criticism of the party leadership in a Belfast Telegraph interview in April.
The South Down MLA had accused the party’s top brass of hanging him out to dry over his conservative views. He also claimed the DUP had reneged on a promise to reinstate him as Health Minister after his controversial resignation three years ago.