Belfast Telegraph

Hundreds of Northern Ireland healthcare workers write to Julian Smith opposing abortion liberalisation

The anti-abortion March For Their Lives
The anti-abortion March For Their Lives
Mark Edwards

By Mark Edwards

Hundreds of health professionals in Northern Ireland have written to Secretary of State Julian Smith expressing their opposition to the liberalisation of abortion laws here.

The doctors, nurses and midwives say their consciences will not allow them to stay silent on the issue, the BBC reports.

The health professionals are seeking reassurance as "conscientious objectors" that they will not have to perform or assist abortions.

Restrictions on abortion in Northern Ireland will be drastically reduced unless the Stormont Assembly is restored by October 21.

In July MPs passed the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Act, placing a duty on the government to provide access to abortion in Northern Ireland.

Regulations will be required to be in place by the end of March 2020.

Those who signed the letter said their concern was for pregnant mothers and their unborn children.

As Christians, they say it is their firmly held belief that abortion was the "unjust and violent taking of human life".

A GP told the Belfast Telegraph that more than 800 other healthcare workers have written to Julian Smith and Richard Pengelly, the permanent health secretary, to say they can no longer remain silent on the issue.

Dr Andrew Cupples said: "There is two strands to this. We have got a letter from more than 800 people who do not want abortion to be foisted upon us by the Westminster government without proper democratic process.

"We have a lot of Christians who very strongly feel that the unborn child is a human being with value and worth. On the same side we have a strong compassion and a real desire to care for woman in crisis pregnancies.

"At the moment Northern Ireland has the best and most protected care for women and unborn children. On October 22 it will have the worst in western Europe. The unborn child in the womb will have no legal rights up to 28 weeks."

Dr Cupples said there would be a gap of five months before any potential legislation will be introduced to protect midwives and nurses who choose not to be involved in an abortion.

The GP added: "We don't want this brought in. We haven't been asked. Stella Creasy (Labour MP) who tabled this motion said during the debate that she didn't want to ask the people in Northern Ireland, but she wanted the opinion of healthcare professionals. The healthcare professionals are giving her our opinion. I emailed her last night with this letter and I am awaiting a response."

Dr Cupples said he was appealing for political parties to restore Stormont and avert the liberalisation of abortion in Northern Ireland.

"We are appealing to the political parties to sit down and initiate democratic government in our country so that this anti-democratic move will no longer be put through," he said.

"We need to be consulted about this. The people of Northern Ireland need to be consulted about this."

DUP MLA Carla Lockhart said, “Those who have signed this letter are all dedicated to the preservation of life and ensuring the best possible care for everyone in our society. It is important that their voice is heard.

"Abortion is an issue that should be debated in the Northern Ireland Assembly and all parties should commit to restoring devolution immediately and without precondition.

"The DUP is a pro-life party and will continue to support the rights of both mothers and unborn children.”

The health department said it was liaising with Northern Ireland Office officials on preparations, including guidance for health service professionals and the general public.

The Royal College of GPs said "conscientious objection" for healthcare staff must be protected and included in guidelines.

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