O'Loan urges May to row back on Bill extending abortion to Northern Ireland
A Parliamentary Bill which would pave the way for de-criminalising abortion in Northern Ireland could be passed into law by the middle of this week "without consideration for the people", a fiercely pro-life peer has warned.
Baroness Nuala O'Loan and former Church of Ireland Archbishop Lord Eames have written an open letter to Prime Minister Teresa May calling on the Government to either withdraw last week's amendments to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill, or allow for a public consultation on the way forward.
Last Tuesday MPs in the House of Commons voted resoundingly to extend same-sex marriage and access to abortion to Northern Ireland.
And while the development was welcomed by gay rights campaigners and pro-choice advocates here and in Britain, the former Police Ombudsman accused Parliament of "riding a coach and horses through the Good Friday Agreement".
It is understood the letter, which has not yet been delivered to the PM, was circulated outside Catholic Masses in Northern Ireland yesterday, the BBC reported last night.
Baroness O'Loan said the letter had attracted around 5,000 signatures "from across Northern Ireland and across the divide". It warns the amendment on abortion law here could cause "significant damage" to attempts to restore the Assembly.
Baroness O'Loan said that if the amendment comes into existence, "Sinn Fein would have no incentive to come back to the talks".
She said: "We are in the middle of negotiations and the Government decide to ride a coach and horses through that process."
Calling for the Bill to be withdrawn or for a public consultation to be facilitated, Baroness O'Loan said the Bill will go into the committee stage today.
"There may or may not be a vote and by Wednesday we will have reached the report stage and the third reading. So this could be law by Wednesday afternoon, without consideration for the people," she said.
"This is not the way to do it and certainly not in the middle of talks. It is contemptuous and disrespectful, with no notice of the people of Northern Ireland."
In her Lords speech after last week's amendment, which was tabled by Labour MP Stella Creasy, Baroness O'Loan reiterated her own pro-life position and referred to the loss of her first baby as the result of an explosion in 1977 when she was 26.
"Even those who are pro-choice are now beginning to accept that abortion is about killing babies," she said.
"If you are three or five months' pregnant and you go for a scan, the radiographer does not say to you, 'That's your foetus' or 'That's your embryo'.
"They say to you, 'That's your baby'. When I lost my baby, as the consequence of a bomb explosion, the doctor who stood at the end of my bed did not say to me, 'Your pregnancy is over'. He said to me, 'Your baby is dead'."